Colbert says Roethlisberger has his support; QB to issue statement

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers offered their first tentative show of support for Ben Roethlisberger on Saturday, with director of football operations Kevin Colbert saying the disgraced quarterback has earned the right to make up for his tawdry behavior.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the two-time Super Bowl winner a six-game suspension this week for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. Goodell handed down the punishment after prosecutors decided not to charge Roethlisberger after a 20-year-old female college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub last month.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger will issue a statement Monday concerning the suspension.

"I know he is going to make a comment regarding the discipline of the commissioner on Monday, and I'll let him do that," Tomlin said. "My understanding is, at this point is he's ready to meet those challenges and take the necessary steps to move forward with his career?"

Colbert is ready to support Roethlisberger.

"We can't defend the behavior or the actions as an organization, and we won't, but we do defend his opportunity to make right, and I think that's the right thing to do," Colbert said. "This guy has helped us win two world championships. He's made some mistakes, but he also deserves the opportunity to rectify those mistakes. And we stand behind his opportunity to do that."

Colbert said he was speaking only for himself, not for the Steelers or Tomlin. Steelers president Art Rooney II, who didn't talk to reporters Saturday, has been particularly critical of Roethlisberger.

The quarterback also is being sued by a different woman who says he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel-casino. Roethlisberger denies the accusation and wasn't charged. He has claimed counter-damages in a lawsuit.

On April 12, Roethlisberger apologized for his off-the-field behavior while reading a minute-long statement and promised to work to regain the trust of his teammates and fans. He hasn't commented since then, and he didn't speak with reporters while practicing for two days last week.

Goodell has ordered Roethlisberger to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals, and be cleared by the league, before he can resume practicing or any other team activities.

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If Roethlisberger is OK to participate in training camp, the Steelers must decide which one of their other three quarterbacks -- Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon -- won't attend.

Leftwich was traded back to Pittsburgh by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, and he has signed a contract extension through 2011. Batch broke his left wrist late last season, and Dixon has started only one NFL game.

"We'll make some hard and fast decisions going into training camp," Tomlin said. "The reality is you can't get four guys ready to play in camp. Right now, we'll work with all three of these men in the short term, see where they, get reacquainted with Byron Leftwich. ... There's a lot of teaching to be done, and we're going to do that and make a decision prior to going to Latrobe (for camp)."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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