Tomlin talks regularly with his QB

Updated: June 2, 2010, 10:02 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are working closely with troubled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make sure he turns his life around, although coach Mike Tomlin didn't offer any specifics Wednesday about what the team is doing.

Tomlin said he talks regularly with Roethlisberger, who recently underwent a behavioral evaluation as part of the six-game suspension handed down April 21 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

"He has a commitment to being what we desire for him to be and what his team needs him to be and that's my focus," Tomlin said. "I've seen Ben quite a bit and communicated with him quite a bit throughout all of this."

Roethlisberger was suspended after a 20-year-old Georgia college student accused him of sexual assault in March. No charges were filed.

Roethlisberger is also being sued by a woman who claims he sexually assaulted her at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2008 but faces no charges.

His suspension could be reduced to four games at Goodell's discretion, but the Steelers say their intervention isn't designed to ensure Roethlisberger returns to the field sooner. He could play Oct. 17 against the Cleveland Browns if his penalty is cut to four games but not until Oct. 31 at New Orleans if the full suspension stands.

"We're doing a lot of things with Ben in terms of dealing with this situation, [and] not for the sole purpose of meeting the criteria so he can participate," Tomlin said. "More than anything, it's about making proper corrections and moving forward with football and with his life. That's the spirit with which we're doing the things that we're doing."

The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was barred from practicing with the Steelers while he underwent the evaluation and Goodell reviewed it. Roethlisberger returned to practice on Tuesday and took most of the snaps with the starters that day and Wednesday.

Dozens of reporters attended both workouts, an unusual turnout for practices that are designed mostly to teach.

"I don't mind the circus atmosphere because I can't control it. ... Ultimately we'll be measured by our ability to win football games," Tomlin said. "This is a distraction if we lose; if we don't, it's not. And I'm committed to making sure it's not, and I'm sure everyone else is."

Roethlisberger hasn't answered questions from reporters since the March incident, but Tomlin said he will soon. The Steelers practice again Thursday and June 8-10 and then will take seven weeks off before training camp opens July 30.

Roethlisberger is taking nearly all the snaps with the regulars and apparently will do so until the Steelers' voluntary practices end next week.

Tomlin isn't saying how snaps will be divided during training camp, when the Steelers will be in the unique position of preparing two starting quarterbacks for the same season.

They must get one quarterback ready to play during Roethlisberger's suspension but also give Roethlisberger plenty of work because he can't practice during his suspension.

"What we really want to do is give Ben quality reps so he can get reacclimated and improve and work on his game," Tomlin said. "And we want to continue to give Dennis [Dixon] his reps because he is a young guy. For the purpose of this week, if there's a reduction it is going to be at the expense of Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch."

Tomlin has given considerable thought to how the camp practices will run, but he isn't ready to divulge that plan.

Leftwich took most of the practice snaps during the five weeks when Roethlisberger was barred from practicing, but he worked mostly with the backups on Wednesday.

Complicating the issue is the Steelers are breaking in several new wide receivers, including Arnaz Battle, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, and rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Also, Antwaan Randle El returned after four seasons with the Washington Redskins.

"You've got to make sure the guys are in the right positions, help the guys you can, especially the young guys," Leftwich said. "We've got a lot of young guys running around. Some of them don't know what they're doing yet. Every opportunity you can to lead this football team, you've got to lead those guys."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.