With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s announcement that he plans to meet Ben Roethlisberger at the appropriate time to discuss his recent off the field issues, there is a growing sense that the league will suspend the Steelers quarterback for a portion of the 2010 season.
Roethlisberger was involved in a second sexual assault investigation since last July when, in early March, a 20-year-old college student accused him of assaulting her in a bathroom of a bar in Midgeville, Georgia. Previously, Roethlisberger was accused of raping a hotel employee at Lake Tahoe in Nevada. He still faces civil proceedings related to that incident.
In Pittsburgh, fans largely supported him after the Lake Tahoe incident, but that support seems to have eroded since the second allegation, as the number of troubling incidents regarding his behavior seems to have reached a breaking point.
Fans in Pittsburgh are well aware of his penchant for the town’s nightlife and his refusal to acquiesce to the team's request that he wear a helmet when riding his motorcycle, as well as the sexual assault allegations.
It seems clear that the NFL, the Steelers organization and its fans are troubled by aspects of the star quarterback’s behavior and his seeming inability to avoid situations that could bring him, the league, and the team into disrepute.
With Roethlisberger not attending the team’s offseason conditioning program, Steelers management is tacitly acknowledging that his presence would be a distraction to the team. They have not commented on when he will return to the team.
The league’s personal conduct policy allows Goodell to suspend players before they are convicted of any criminal offenses.
Due to the serious nature of a sexual assault allegation and the fact that Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual misconduct twice within a nine-month period, Goodell’s announcement that he was monitoring Roethlisberger’s situation and intends to meet him should come as no surprise.
If the investigation into the early March incident results in charges being filed, the chances of Goodell suspending Roethlisberger increase.
If Roethlisberger is charged but not convicted, Goodell could decide against suspending him if he determines the charges were largely unfounded. Alternatively, he could determine that a one or two game suspension is warranted, given the pattern of Roethlisberger putting himself in troubling situations.
If Roethlisberger is convicted of sexual assault, he will likely face time in prison, as well as a lengthy league suspension. However, given the slow moving nature of criminal proceedings, a conviction during the 2010 season seems unlikely.
Roethlisberger is coming off his best season as a pro and finished as the eighth-ranked fantasy quarterback in 2009. With the Steelers moving to more of a pass-based offense and possessing three solid wide receivers in Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and second-year speedster Mike Wallace, Roethlisberger was expected to meet or exceed his production from a year ago.
However, his fantasy prospects for 2010 are clearly diminished with the threat of a suspension looming and the obvious distraction of criminal and civil proceedings. His fantasy value is negatively impacted due to the increased risk he carries.
Roethlisberger owners in dynasty leagues may want to gauge his trade value and move him if another owner isn’t asking for a discount due to his current situation.
The biggest fantasy issue arising from Roethlisberger’s predicament resides with the team’s wide receivers and tight end Heath Miller. With the aging Charlie Batch and unproven Dennis Dixon in reserve, there is a huge dropoff at the quarterback position.
Keep abreast of Roethlisberger’s situation if you’re considering any of his receiving options for your fantasy roster in 2010.