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Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Goodell making decision within week

ESPN.com news services

IRVING, Texas -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he expects to decide within a week when Ben Roethlisberger can rejoin the Pittsburgh Steelers for offseason workouts.

Goodell said Tuesday at the owners meetings that he would soon review the behavioral evaluation he ordered as part of his six-game suspension of the Steelers quarterback under the league's conduct policy.

Goodell said he planned to sit down with his staff and "determine the next step."

The two-time Super Bowl winner was suspended following a March incident in which a 20-year-old college student accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault in Milledgeville, Ga. The case will not be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, the competition to temporarily replace Roethlisberger as the Steelers' quarterback is becoming a one-man race.

Byron Leftwich is handling nearly all of the first-team snaps in practice, a strong indicator he will be the starter while Roethlisberger serves his suspension.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wants to go into training camp with what he calls a "pecking order" defined at quarterback. So far, that's Leftwich, followed by third-year QB Dennis Dixon and longtime backup Charlie Batch.

With the Steelers practicing only three days a week though June 10, Tomlin seemingly would give far more work to Dixon or Batch if either figured to go into camp as the designated replacement.

Still, Dixon -- the least-experienced of the three -- isn't complaining.

"I have no idea," Dixon said Tuesday when asked if he can win the temporary starting job. "I've just got to continue to do what I do best and hopefully that's enough. Just go out there and get the trust of my teammates day in and day out."

Tomlin doesn't want players arriving at training camp questioning who will be filling various roles, if only because it will be even more difficult then to get meaningful work for all four quarterbacks.

Leftwich will need considerable work with the regulars during camp because he'll likely be starting until October. However, Roethlisberger also needs time with the regulars because, once the season starts, he won't practice with them again until his suspension ends.

"But I can't be thinking about September in May," Leftwich said. "I've got to take this month to month, day by day, and make sure I'm continually getting better. I'm quite sure they'll do the right thing."

The Steelers traded a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay for Leftwich within hours of Roethlisberger being suspended on April 21.

Leftwich, formerly with the Bucs, Jaguars and Falcons, was the backup when the Steelers won the Super Bowl during the 2008 season. He signed with Tampa Bay last year for the chance to start, but wound up playing only three games.

While Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians tweaked the playbook some while Leftwich was gone, it apparently hasn't taken much time for Leftwich to get caught up.

"When you like something, you never forget it and I never forgot his offense," Leftwich said. "It changed some, but as a quarterback you're so used to things changing here and there, you can pick up on it. Especially when he makes it as easy as he makes it. There's always a rhyme or reason to what he does. I know the way he thinks."

The Steelers also understand how Leftwich thinks, one reason why they hurried to reacquire him once they knew for certain that Roethlisberger would miss the start of the season.

They liked how Leftwich ran the offense in practice and during the minimal playing time he got in 2008, and how he easily settled into their locker room.

"I've got confidence in myself and I believe they have confidence in me," Leftwich said. "I'm not new around these guys."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.