Should Roger Goodell Suspend Ben Roethlisberger?

Samuel Bell JrSenior Analyst IApril 14, 2010

MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks back to the huddle after injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-24.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

It's 11:00 p.m., do you know where Ben Roethlisberger is?

I'm sure many Steelers fans and ownership will be asking this question a lot in the coming months in the wake of Roethlisberger's latest legal run-in with a young college girl in Georgia.

After meeting with Roger Goodell, following charges against him being dropped in the case, Roethlisberger joins the list of players who have had character issues lately in the NFL.

Unfortunately for them, Goodell has made one of his chief concerns keeping the league's name out of the news for the wrong reasons.

Since Goodell became commissioner in 2006, he's implemented an extensive plan to keep players accountable for their actions off the field and make them suffer the consequences if they fail to do so.

The result was harsh criticism from critics and players alike. Since going into effect in his first season on the job, many players have felt the teeth of the plan and it has positively affected the NFL's image.

Brought on at the time by the arrest of nine Cincinnati Bengals players in a short period of time, the Personal Conduct Policy made every player question what they exemplified off the field.

The first players to be made examples of were Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tank Johnson, and the now tragically deceased wide receiver Chris Henry.

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Jones was involved in 10 interviews with the police and was believed to be part of a shooting in Las Vegas that left a man paralyzed. He was subsequently suspended multiple times, the longest being the entire 2007 season.

Henry and Johnson were both suspended several games because of off the field behavior, and were the first to come under the law of Goodell and prove that the commissioner was serious about the rule.

Since then, marquee players such as Marshawn Lynch and Donte Stallworth have been suspended for conduct detrimental to the morale of the league and themselves.

Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes may be next. Holmes has already been suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy following a trade to the New York Jets, a move that surprised many.

In fact, this offseason many players viewed in the past as character liabilities to their respective franchises have been moved in stunning fashion.

In addition to Holmes, talented players such as Brandon Marshall and Joey Porter have been either traded or released due partly to their off the field behavior and negative effect on the team's morale.

What does all this mean?

That Goodell's vision of the league being a moral, driven, upstanding business may be coming into focus.

It has been no secret that Goodell has emphasized that playing in the league is a privilege and that players who don't respect that by behaving recklessly will be dealt with swiftly.

Four years later, players may just be starting to understand that.

Franchises have also begun to do their part to make players more responsible by releasing or trading away marquee players who don't abide by the rules.

The Steelers, known as a franchise that prides itself on the morale of its players and coaches, traded away a former Super Bowl MVP for a bag of peanuts and a tub of ice cream.

The Browns did the same with Braylon Edwards during last season and the Broncos let Marshall go away for a bottle of wine with a complement of cheese.

Okay, the Broncos got a second-round pick in 2010 and 2011 for Marshall, and that can end up bringing them a star, but Marshall is absurdly talented and worth more.

With a suspension looming for Roethlisberger, one of the league's top players at its most visible position, Goodell's plan for the NFL appears only to be picking up steam.

Goodell has to be careful, though, because if he doesn't come down at all on Big Ben and allows him to start the first game of the season, his plan could lose respect from players and fans.

Punish one, punish all. It's an old adage that Goodell must remember if he wants his rule to remain respected and free of harmful criticism.

Not to flash the proverbial "race-card" but many of the suspensions have been against black players and Roethlisberger has done actions deserving of some type of suspension.

If Goodell doesn't punish him all race hell will break loose.

Not to say that black players didn't deserve to be suspended, but Roethlisberger does too.

The way Goodell handles the issue could make or break the work he has done to gain the notoriety and respect he has to this point.

With owners and front offices supporting Goodell's conduct policy by serving their own justice to offending players, the NFL will continue to see higher morale as a whole.

That's great for the players and fans. Goodell just has to stay consistent, or face the wrath of critics and screams of hypocrisy.

Only time will tell.