Big Ben's situation a cause for concern
Backups Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon have the quarterback position "set" in face of the situation surrounding Ben Roethlisberger.
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- As the NFL converged on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for the annual league meetings, high on the buzz list among club officials and coaches is one Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger, accused in two different states of sexual assault in the past nine months, awaits word on whether he will be charged in Georgia after the latest accusation by a 20-year-old college student. Even if he is not indicted, a league source said Sunday, the Steelers quarterback could be compelled to undergo a formal clinical evaluation.
And if he is charged in the March 5 incident, the Steelers and/or the NFL can dole out immediate discipline of Roethlisberger even if there is no conviction, the source confirmed.
The Steelers, as team president Art Rooney has said, are concerned. Coach Mike Tomlin took it one step further upon his arrival here.
"I'm highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben personally," Tomlin told the NFL Network Saturday. Tomlin, scheduled to meet with two Pittsburgh reporters Sunday, instead became unavailable. It is unknown why he is concerned for the Steelers franchise.
Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, declared before the March 5 assault accusation that quarterback and tight end were two positions the Steelers would not consider drafting with high picks. He did not back away from that Sunday.
Colbert noted of Rooney's previous statements about the Roethlisberger situation:
"He made the statement for the organization and until anything changes we're going to live by that statement and our draft planning won't change."
The Steelers have only Roethlisberger and Dennis Dixon under contract at quarterback, although they are expected to re-sign unrestricted free agent Charlie Batch. Still, Colbert stuck by his previous assertion he would not draft a quarterback high.
"We can add depth anywhere," Colbert said, "except save the quarterback because we have a young backup there and hopefully we're going to get Charlie Batch back in the mix soon there. That position appears to be set."
Colbert would not comment on rumors the Steelers are considering trading with Tampa Bay for quarterback Byron Leftwich, who spent the 2008 season as Roethlisberger's backup after Charlie Batch's season-ending injury in training camp.
A reading of the NFL personal conduct policy shows further why the Steelers may be so concerned about their quarterback's situation.
According to the policy:
It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.
Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime. Discipline may be imposed in any of the following circumstances: Criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse; theft and other property crimes; sex offenses ...
In addition, the policy states:
Apart from any disciplinary action, persons arrested, charged or otherwise appearing to have engaged in conduct prohibited under this policy will be required to undergo a formal clinical evaluation. Based on the results of that evaluation, the person may be encouraged or required to participate in an education program, counseling or other treatment deemed appropriate by health professionals.
NOTES -- The NFL will issue compensatory draft picks Tuesday. Colbert said he has no idea what the Steelers might get but there is speculation the Steelers will receive two fifth-rounders for losing Bryant McFadden and Nate Washington as free agents last year. ... In the final year of his contract, Colbert responded to persistent reports that he would rejoin Bill Cowher if he coaches for another team: "My reaction is I'm perfectly happy working with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the future will take care of itself." ... Colbert said wide receiver Limas Sweed, placed on injured reserve late last season for a non-physical illness, has been participating in offseason workouts with his teammates. "He's still in the mix." ... Colbert said the team is not interested "at this point" in bringing back guard Darnell Stapleton, a starter in 2008 who spent last season on injured reserve after knee surgery.
First Published March 22, 2010 12:10 am