Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension was reduced to four games from six by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, who was suspended after being accused of sexually assaulting two women, can return to play on Oct. 17 at home against the Cleveland Browns.
Goodell had barred Roethlisberger from the first six games of the regular season for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy. The commissioner said in a letter to Roethlisberger in April that the player’s conduct at a Milledgeville, Georgia, club the previous month undermined the integrity and reputation of the NFL, and that he put himself and others at risk by providing alcohol to underage college students.
“You have told me and the Steelers that you are committed to making better decisions,” Goodell said in a letter to Roethlisberger, according to an NFL statement. “Your actions over the past several months have been consistent with that promise and you must continue to honor that commitment.”
Roethlisberger met today with Goodell. The commissioner said at the time of the suspension that if Roethlisberger followed the league’s guidelines and avoided trouble, he would consider reducing the suspension to four games.
“I have learned a lot over the past several months about myself as a person,” Roethlisberger said in a statement released through the team today. “I am committed to continuing on this path of being the type of person my family raised me to be, and exceeding what is expected of me as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Goodell had also barred Roethlisberger from the team’s offseason training until he completed a “comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals,” mandatory under the league’s policy, the NFL said.
“Ben has done a good job this summer of growing as the person that he needs to be, both on and off the field,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement. “I am confident that Ben is committed to continuing in this positive direction.”
The reduction comes more than four months after prosecutors said they wouldn’t charge the 28-year-old quarterback for an alleged sexual assault on a 20-year-old college student in the Milledgeville bar.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Frederic Bright said “significant questions” remained about what took place that night. He said the woman involved wrote to his office that she didn’t want the matter prosecuted.
Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers to Super Bowl victories after the 2005 and 2008 seasons, was also sued by a woman who said he raped her in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2008, according to the Associated Press. Roethlisberger has denied both allegations.
Byron Leftwich played most of the time at quarterback for the Steelers in preseason games and has been slated to be first-string in the regular season until Roethlisberger returns, coach Mike Tomlin has said. Leftwich sprained his left knee in last night’s preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers, a 19-3 Pittsburgh victory, and is scheduled for an MRI today. Dennis Dixon likely would be the starter if Leftwich is sidelined.
Roethlisberger has been in the Steelers’ training camp and played in preseason games. He can’t practice with the team beginning today, but will have two weeks of workouts with the squad before he can play because of the Steelers’ bye week on Oct. 10.
The reduced suspension means Roethlisberger will miss games against the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens at home, and at the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Steelers’ season starts against the Falcons at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Sept. 12.