Tomlin says Big Ben called him within hours of accusation
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ben Roethlisberger called Steelers coach Mike Tomlin in the early hours of March 5 to inform him that a 20-year-old woman had just accused him of sexual assault in Georgia.
That, and a few other revelations, were disclosed by Tomlin this morning as he discussed Roethlisberger and his situation for nearly 30 minutes before a gaggle of news media at the NFL meetings here.
Tomlin, who declined to discuss Roethlisberger on Monday, opened up like no other Steelers official about the quarterback's predicament in which he has been accused but not yet charged in the case that drew critical comments from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Tomlin said Roethlisberger has remained in Pittsburgh and that he's been in daily contact with his quarterback since the March 5 incident and has met with him as well.
The first Tomlin heard about the incident, which occurred sometime in the first two hours after midnight in Georgia, came when Roethlisberger called him.
"The sun wasn't up, but it technically wasn't the middle of the night," Tomlin said.
"I've had pretty fluid daily contact with him really like I always do. Of course, these are a different set of circumstances."
Tomlin mentioned that Steelers president Art Rooney II has spoken on the issue and that he did not need to say or do anything about his quarterback position at the moment, but he said that could change based on what comes out of the investigation in Georgia.
"We've kind of been very clear in how we're expressing our opinions regarding this matter at this point," Tomlin said. "As the investigation moves forward, as it runs its course, we'll have appropriate statements at that time.
"Really, it doesn't serve me, it doesn't serve the organization, it doesn't serve Ben for me to continue to add comments at this point. We've been pretty clear from Art Rooney II on down about where we are at this point. As the investigation continues to develop, as things change, we'll react appropriately . . . I really have nothing to add for the simple reason that nothing has changed in terms of the investigation. We're in a wait-and-see mode like everyone else. We'll continue to do that. By no means is it comfortable, but such is life."
Tomlin told the NFL Network in a brief comment Saturday after his arrival here that he was "highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben." He explained this morning why he was concerned for the franchise.
"I think it's well known that we're very, very conscious about how we do business, that we're very highly concerned about our image, perception, how we conduct ourselves; our standards of conduct I think are above and beyond that of our peers. We embrace that. That's why I made the comments I made."
He said Roethlisberger is handling the situation "about what you'd expect."
Dennis Dixon finished last season as the No. 2 quarterback and the Steelers plan to re-sign veteran backup Charlie Batch soon. But if something were to happen to Roethlisberger, "We don't necessarily have a backup plan at this time," Tomlin said.
"It's early in this process and we'll let the process run its course and kind of make decisions from there."
Tomlin went on to describe Roethlisberger as "a ridiculous competitor, a good guy, a guy who wants to win. A guy who doesn't mind toting the burden that comes with being the quarterback of our football team. Really what you see is what you get from my perspective."
He said it's too early to think about adding another quarterback.
"You know, I think we're in a position right now that we can kind of wait and see. Of course if we have to we will, but I don't think it's gotten to that point yet where we need to kind of make those hard and fast decisions."
First Published March 23, 2010 9:30 am