- James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter
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Roethlisberger was suspended six games this season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy following his second sexual assault allegation in less than a year. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reduced his suspension to four games last week.
During the first allegation, his teammates still voted him as one of the offensive captains. But this year's voting is a strong sign that "Big Ben" now has to earn the trust back from his team.
Roethlisberger, who recently had his suspension reduced by two games for good behavior, will not play this season until Oct. 17 against the Cleveland Browns.
"The captain's not just what you do on the field, it's what you do off the field," Ward said Monday. "Heath lives here [at the training facility], he's constantly here during coaching sessions and offseason workouts. It's well deserved."
Until his suspension ends after the Steelers' Oct. 3 game against Baltimore, Roethlisberger cannot attend practice or visit the Steelers' offices and is not permitted to talk to coaches or fellow players about team-related matters.
Ward doesn't think the Steelers intentionally slighted Roethlisberger by not choosing him a captain.
"Ben's our quarterback," Ward said. "That in itself, he's the leader of this team."
James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
For the first time since 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers did not elect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as one of the team's captains.