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Commissioner Goodell plans to meet with Roethlisberger

| Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Roger Goodell has acted swiftly and decisively since instituting a policy that holds NFL players to a higher standard than the law.

Next in his sights could be Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The NFL commissioner said Monday that he plans to meet with Roethlisberger, who has been accused of sexual assault twice since July.

"I think the most important thing is we take the issue very seriously," Goodell said yesterday at the NFL owners' meetings. "I have spoken to the Steelers. I have spoken to (team president) Art Rooney (II) about it. We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position."

Roethlisberger is under investigation in Milledgeville, Ga., after a 20-year-old college student accused him of assaulting her March 5. He also has a civil suit pending against him in a separate incident in Nevada.

Goodell did not specify when he plans to meet with Roethlisberger.

His intent to sit down with the face of the Steelers' franchise indicates that Goodell sees a troubling pattern of behavior.

The Steelers have said very little about Roethlisberger, one of only two active quarterbacks to win more than one Super Bowl.

Coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network on Saturday that "I'm highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben personally."

Talking extensively yesterday for the first time since a Jan. 5 season-ending news conference, Tomlin broached many subjects. But he declined to talk about Roethlisberger.

"I'm not going to comment on my comments," he said.

Pressed on why he talked about Roethlisberger to the network that is owned by the league, Tomlin said, "Because it's the NFL Network, and the NFL and NFL Network are one and the same."

Rooney declined comment Sunday when asked about what Tomlin told NFL Network.

Rooney said last week that the Steelers are going to let the investigation of Roethlisberger run its course before making any personnel decisions.

The position Rooney finds himself in is something none of the other NFL owners want to experience.

"It's tough on your franchise when these things happen and you really prefer these issues not to come up, but at the same time you know these things come up and you have to deal with them," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "Part of being a leader is you just assume difficult problems and adversity is going to come up, and then you've got to get through it."

Roethlisberger's attorneys have said his client is innocent of any wrongdoing in the incident that happened at a Milledgeville nightclub. Roethlisberger has vehemently denied assaulting a former casino worker in Nevada, as she has alleged in a civil suit filed in July.

David Cornwell, one of Roethlisberger's attorneys, said his client will cooperate with the league.

"I contacted the league as soon as the recent allegations were made against Ben," Cornwell said in a statement. "We agreed that I would keep the NFL apprised of all developments as they warrant. I believe the commissioner will allow us to focus on matters in Georgia, but we look forward to meeting with (Goodell) and addressing any concerns he may have."

If Roethlisberger is charged in connection with the early March incident that took place during a night of bar-hopping, he could be disciplined for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Since enacting the policy in 2007, Goodell has suspended players before they were convicted of any crime. Sex offenses fall under the umbrella of transgressions that can lead to punishment under the personal conduct policy.

The policy also allows Goodell to order players to get treatment if he deems there is a problem.

The league had said it was monitoring the Roethlisberger situation prior to Goodell's announcement yesterday.

"At the appropriate time, I will meet with Ben," Goodell said.

Tomlin's takes

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on ...

Dennis Dixon establishing himself as the Steelers' No. 2 quarterback :

"If he continues on that path, I see no reason why he shouldn't. I'm not going to assume anything. One thing that's been pleasant is that he's '10 toes in' the offseason program. He has a nice presence around the building. He's really growing and maturing in those ways. Ultimately, those decisions are made inside the white lines."

The signings the Steelers have made since the start of free agency :

"I really feel great. I think part of us getting better and putting ourselves to be a championship-caliber team for 2010 is strengthening ourselves, creating a more competitive environment, having better quality depth. I think with the moves that we've made it's been an improvement in those areas. I think that is critical to us being one of those elite football teams."

Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El fulfilling a multidimensional role as he did with the Steelers from 2002-05 :

"I know that he has a unique skill set, and I'm open to exploring what he's capable of doing for us. I'm not going to assume he's the same guy he was when he left here. Four years is a long time in football terms, but we know what he's capable of. We know he's got great spirit. We know he's a good teammate. I'm interested in watching all those guys compete and let the roles define themselves as we push forward."

Why the Steelers went 9-7 in 2009 after having time to step back and look back at the season :

"Because that was us. That's the story of the NFL. It's one of the reasons I love it, man, you either do or you don't. We didn't. It was an uncomfortable stretch there for us; (it was) all that highlights what we weren't. But the reality is we were not a playoff-caliber team, that's why we didn't make it."

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