Goodell suspends Roethlisberger for six games

By PHIL ANDREWS
Senior Writer — pandrews@highhopesblog.com
_______

It had been rumored that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would not hand down a verdict on beleaguered Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger until after this week’s NFL draft.

Today the  Commissioner notified the Steelers and  Roethlisberger that he must undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals and will be suspended without pay for the first six games of the regular season for conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old female college student in a Georgia nightclub last month, but will not face criminal charges.

So where does this leave the Pittsburgh Steelers as far as the early portion of their 2010 schedule.

For starters, the team did reacquire quarterback Byron Leftwich this week by trading a seventh-round draft pick (225th overall) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Leftwich of course was Roethlisberger’s backup during the 2008 season, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Leftwich knows offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ system and could be ready for Pittsburgh’s season opener.

Then again, if the team has an eye on the future, there is also third-year pro Dennis Dixon.

Dixon was selected by the Steelers in the 5th round of the 2008 draft (156th overall), and was initially thought of as a utility type player, ala Antwaan Randle-El or maybe even a Kordell Stewart (Slash).

During his rookie season (2008), Dixon passed for a combined 12-for-24 in a pair of pre-season games while also scoring on a 47-yard touchdown run against the Buffalo Bills.

His first official NFL pass is in the Steelers record books as the 800th career reception hauled in by perennial pro-bowler Hines Ward.

Dixon made his first career start last season against the Baltimore Ravens after injuries to Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch moved him up the depth chart. The Steelers lost that game in overtime, 20-17.

Dennis was 12 of 26 with one touchdown and one interception for 145 yards and also ran for 27 yards on three carries, including one run for a touchdown. However, his one interception was in the overtime period, allowing the Baltimore Ravens to kick a field goal for the winning score.

If Roethlisberger does indeed serve a full six game suspension, the penalty would cover the following portion of Pittsburgh’s schedule: Atlanta, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Bye and Cleveland.

Big Bens Suspension includes conditions that will allow the punishment to be reduced based on Roethlisberger’s behavior and compliance with clinical evaluators.

Commissioner Roger Goodell’s verdict reinforces a message that NFL employees will be held to a higher standard than the law.

There was some speculation that Ben could have been subject to an eight-game suspension, but the four-six games is more in line with previous suspensions handed down by the Commissioner.

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