Addressing reporters at the AFC coaches' breakfast at the NFL Annual Meeting, Tomlin was badgered with questions about Roethlisberger -– as he expected. Tomlin didn't expand much on previous comments about the team's concern about Roethlisberger and its wait-and-see approach, but he did provide some details as to how things could transpire.
Getting back to form
Tomlin said Roethlisberger called to notify him of his troubles shortly after the alleged incident involving a 20-year-old woman in a Milledgeville, Ga., nightclub March 5. "The sun wasn't up, but it wouldn't technically be the middle of the night," Tomlin said.
Tomlin said he also spoke to Roethlisberger after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that he planned to meet with the quarterback at a later time, but they didn't talk about those comments.
"I assume he saw it," Tomlin said.
Though offseason workouts began last week, veteran players are scheduled to start voluntary offseason training March 29. Tomlin didn't say if Roethlisberger would definitely be there but added: "That's not in his DNA (to miss workouts). When it's time for him to be there, he'll be there. ... We'll see. What's going on in terms of the investigation has a lot to do with that."
The Steelers aren't rushing to sign a veteran quarterback because they believe they have time to let Roethlisberger's legal situation play itself out before adding insurance. But the team will protect itself if it believes it needs to, Tomlin said.
Tomlin described Roethlisberger as "a ridiculous competitor; a good guy, a guy that wants to win, a guy that doesn't mind toting the burden that comes with being the quarterback of our football team. What you see is what you get."
"It's a distraction if we lose," Tomlin said. "We're paid to deal with distractions. In the years I've been in this league, I've learned to embrace what people call distractions. Distractions come with being successful. Distractions come with winning. Teams that are elite teams find ways to overcome those things. Teams that lose... some of the things you deal with become distractions. We'll see how we deal with it."
Tomlin said that at this point, the investigation into the woman's claim against Roethlisberger might not taint the Steelers' solid image, but any off-field blemish isn't welcome by the coach or ownership.
"It's well-known that we're very, very conscious about how we do business, that we're very concerned about our image, perception, how we conduct ourselves," Tomlin said. "It's above and beyond that of our peers, and we embrace that."
Roethlisberger's lawyer, Ed Garland, has said the quarterback didn't commit a crime. Charges haven't been filed in Georgia or in Nevada, where a woman filed a lawsuit after saying Roethlisberger raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel. Roethlisberger also denies that allegation and has sued for counter-damages.