A Steelers official said the team will defend disgraced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's "opportunity to make right" and resume his career in Pittsburgh.
"Not speaking for coach or the organization," said Kevin Colbert, their director of football operations, "but really we can't defend the behavior or the actions and as an organization we won't.
"But we do defend his opportunity to make right. And I think that's the right thing to do. This guy has helped us win two championships and he's made some mistakes but he also deserves the opportunity to rectify those mistakes. I know we stand behind his opportunity to do that."
Roethlisberger will issue a statement Monday -- not in a news-conferences form -- in response to the 4-to-6 game suspension given him by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Wednesday. The suspension, along with required evaluation and counseling, was issued for his actions in the early morning of March 5 in Georgia, where a 20-year-old woman claimed he raped her. Authorities decided not to charge the quarterback.
The Steelers acquired veteran quarterback Byron Leftwich in a trade this past week from Tampa Bay, and he will join Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon at the position while Roethlisberger serves his suspension. Coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger is ready to accept the consequences and move forward.
"I think that's his mind set. I know he is going to make a comment regarding the discipline of the commissioner on Monday. I will let him do that. But it's my understanding at this point he is ready to meet those challenges and take the necessary steps to move forward with his career."
Roethlisberger is not expected to attend minicamp next weekend because he is not permitted to rejoin the team until a psychological evaluation is performed.
Tomlin said he will allow the other three quarterbacks to work through things in the spring and then decide how he will proceed with them at training camp in Latrobe.
"What we know at this point is, of course, he will be unavailable to us for at least the first four football games of the season," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. "We've got three guys that we're very comfortable with playing. We'll use the rest of the organized team activity days to kind of sort through it and get some information in regards to where those guys are. And then we'll make some hard and fast decision going into training camp because the reality is you can't get four guys ready to play in a camp.
"We'll make that decision at that time. Right now, we're just going to work with all four of these men, or all three of these men who will be part of this program in the short term, see where they are, get reacquainted with Byron Leftwich, of course. Charlie Batch is coming off an injury and Dennis Dixon is an emerging young guy.
"There are quality reps to be had, a lot of teaching that needs to be done. We're going to do that and make a decision prior to going to Latrobe about how we're going to go about divvying up the workload, if you will."
For more on the Steelers, read the new blog, Ed Bouchette On the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published April 25, 2010 4:00 AM