Will off-field issues cost Roethlisberger games?

Mike Wilkening, ProFootballWeekly.com Apr 2, 8:52 am EDT

With Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) under investigation in connection with an alleged sexual assault in Georgia — and commissioner Roger Goodell indicating he will meet with Roethlisberger at some point — it raises the question whether Roethlisberger will miss any games this season because of his off-field issues. Even if Roethlisberger isn’t charged or convicted of a crime in connection with the alleged Georgia incident, he could be subject to NFL discipline, including a fine or a suspension, under the league’s personal-conduct policy, which has been strengthened during Goodell’s tenure in office.

“While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher,” the policy states. “It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful.”

Roethlisberger is also facing a civil lawsuit in Nevada in connection with a separate sexual assault allegation; he was never charged with a crime in the alleged Nevada incident and strongly professed his innocence. However, the two sets of allegations in less than a year do not sit well with Goodell. “The most important thing is we take the issue very seriously,” Goodell said. “We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position.”

Third-year QB Dennis Dixon(notes), who started one game in place of an injured Roethlisberger last season, could have the edge to be the Steelers’ top backup behind Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ re-signing of Charlie Batch(notes) last week gives them another option at the position should Roethlisberger miss any part of the season. Batch missed the entire ’08 season with a broken collarbone and part of the ’09 campaign with a wrist injury, but he knows Bruce Arians’ offense.