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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that embattled Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be suspended for the first six games of the regular season. Some behavioral evaluation by medical experts will also be required.
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few months, Roethlisberger was accused of rape (again) in a Georgia nightclub, but was not charged, possibly due to the lone investigating officer (who has since resigned) having bias in Ben’s favor. Still, Roethlisberger’s behavior has been deemed a violation of the league’s good behavior rules.
In the meantime, the Steelers have been trying to rid themselves of their burden by trading it. Quick talks with the Rams regarding trading Roethlisberger as part of a package to get the #1 pick (and Sam Bradford with it) went nowhere when the Rams weren’t interested. Few teams were even interested in Roethlisberger to begin with, and the suspension eating up his value early on has only killed that chance.
For the time being, it looks like the Steelers are stuck with Ben. Their new zero-tolerance policy regarding bad behavior led to the unloading of Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a 5th round pick, and team and league sources say that one more strike will cost Roethlisberger his job one way or the other. He will be allowed to practice with the team and play in the meaningless preseason, but will be forced to sit out games versus Atlanta, in Tennessee, in Tampa Bay, versus Baltimore, and past the Week 5 bye, versus Cleveland and in Miami.
The Steelers already made a good move to prepare for the suspension, trading the 225th overall (seventh round) pick to Tampa for quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was Pittsburgh’s backup during their 2008 championship season. He’ll know the organization well enough, and will compete with Dennis Dixon and the oft-injured Charlie Batch for the early starting job. That’ll do for the time being, but it won’t solve the Roethlisberger problem permanently.
After coming back from his suspension, Roethlisberger will have to face down Drew Brees and the Bengals to cap off an excruciating three-game road trip before returning home to host the Patriots. It’s a good thing he’ll be allowed to practice with the team, if he manages to stay in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers want prime value for Roethlisberger, which has helped make a trade very unlikely, in addition to the suspension. Roethlisberger has six years left on a contract he signed back in 2008, which gave him $102 million. The cost will be tough to dump on other teams, but it could become more likely if the Steelers renew trade talks once the suspension is up. That will allow teams to trade less for him in a pro-rated deal, and get their money’s worth for him by not having to put up with the suspension.
Still, it’s unlikely that such an expensive player, and one who former Coach Bill Cowher once called a franchise quarterback, will garner much interest. According to the Bleacher Report, the Panthers, Raiders, Bills, and Rams are all amongst teams that need a good starting quarterback. Teams such as the Vikings and Cardinals are teams that could need one if their current quarterbacks don’t work out (Matt Leinart / Cardinals) or just don’t show up (Brett Favre / Vikings). I’d just like to add Kevin Kolb and the Eagles to that list myself. If teams still have unsettled quarterback issues after the draft or later in the season, that’s the Steelers’ only chance to ditch Roethlisberger and get something in return. At least the Steelers can be sure that checkered pasts don’t bother the Eagles.