Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will finally get some resolution on his suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy on Friday when he meets with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York, a day after the Steelers' final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
Goodell will let Roethlisberger know whether his six-game suspension will be reduced. Goodell said Roethlisberger had gone "above and beyond" the commissioner's expectations during a training camp visit to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe last month, and it is expected the commissioner will reduce the suspension by two games to four.
"We are looking forward to hearing from the commissioner, but we will not have any further information or comment until after they speak," team president Art Rooney II said in a statement.
Roethlisberger spoke with reporters after practice on Tuesday, but he was instructed by team personnel not to answer any questions about his upcoming suspension.
Roethlisberger cannot be at the Steelers' training facility during his suspension, and he has not discussed much about his plans during the suspension other than to say he will work out with a quarterback coach from California. That arrangement was made through Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner.
Roethlisberger took snaps with the first-team offense again on Tuesday and is expected to work with the starters against Carolina before his suspension begins.
Goodell is expected to clarify the start of the suspension on Friday, but Roethlisberger's final team activity is expected to be during the game Thursday night. The Steelers do not practice Friday or Saturday, when the 53-man roster must be set.
As has been the case for the first three preseason games, the quarterbacks are in the dark about the rotation for the game against the Panthers. But with this being the last time Roethlisberger can play with his teammates until the suspension is over, coach Mike Tomlin might want to let him play deeper into the contest than he normally would in the final preseason game.
"I honestly have no idea, to tell you the truth," Roethlisberger said. "I'm going into it just like I have every game, waiting to hear what [Tomlin] has to say."
It remains undecided whether veteran Byron Leftwich or third-year player Dennis Dixon will start in place of Roethlisberger when the Steelers play host to the Atlanta Falcons in the Sept. 12 season opener.
Leftwich and Dixon were diplomatic when asked about the quarterback rotation on Tuesday, but veteran receiver Hines Ward said it has been difficult for him not knowing who will be the starter. Ward said it's the first time during his 13 seasons with the team that the starting quarterback was unsettled this late in the preseason.
"It's not my right to say what we should and shouldn't do," Ward said. "I'm trying to get all the reps I can because communication is different with all three guys. As a wide receiver you want to be on the same page with the guy who is going to be your starter. It just makes it difficult sometimes because all three communicate differently.
"As players, of course, whoever they name, let's go forward, move forward and not look back and second-guess who should be the starter."
Roethlisberger did not endorse Leftwich or Dixon for the job, but he has been impressed watching each perform through the preseason.
"If you look at the way all four quarterbacks have performed, I think everybody has done a great job," Roethlisberger said. "I think everyone is looking pretty good. Everyone is a professional in the group, and everyone is ready to go whatever [the situation] might be."
In the preseason, Leftwich is 9 for 20 for 138 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Dixon is 22 for 31 for 304 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, both of which came in the Steelers' 34-17 loss at Denver Sunday night when he received his most extensive action with the starters.
Leftwich said it has not been necessary for Tomlin to name a starter because the Steelers are a veteran-laden team.
"I think it's irrelevant right now," he said. "We'll all know when the time is right. The time is right when these things start counting. As of right now, it's the preseason and it doesn't matter right now. We're a veteran football team. It's not a young football team. We've won Super Bowls. There is no real need to do that right now, to be honest with you."
Leftwich also is not concerned that he has not received most of the repetitions throughout the preseason.
"I've been around here before," he said. "They know how I prepare and go into ballgames. They don't feel like it's a problem. I don't feel as though it's a problem. We'll do the right thing. I don't think there is a certain amount of plays I need to play on Thursday to get me right. Even if I play every down on Thursday, it's going to take more than that. It takes preparation from the first day of training camp. We've all been preparing for Sept. 12."
Steelers' final preseason game vs. Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field, 7:30 p.m.
Ben Roethlisberger meets with commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss suspension.
Steelers and all NFL teams must get down to their 53-man season-opening rosters.
The Saints and Vikings kick off the 2010 season in New Orleans (8:30 p.m., WPXI).
The Steelers open their 2010 season vs. the Falcons at Heinz Field (1 p.m., WPGH).
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230. First Published September 1, 2010 4:00 AM