There were a lot of Baltimore Ravens fans smiling on April 21, and it wasn’t just because the NFL draft was in less than 24 hours. These smiles were more evil than joyous, and aimed directly at the Ravens’ arch rivals after the NFL announced that Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be suspended for the first six games of the 2010 season without pay.

One of the games Roethlisberger will miss includes a week four matchup against the Ravens scheduled for Oct. 3, which is great news to all purple and black fans because Baltimore has won only two of the last nine meetings against “Big Ben.”

Roethlisberger’s suspension comes after a meeting earlier in the week with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who claimed the 28-year-old Ohio native violated the league’s personal conduct policy. He was also ordered to undergo comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals for his implication in multiple sexual assault allegations, including a situation that Georgia prosecutors decided not to charge him on last week.

According to reports, a 20-year-old female college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Milledgeville, Ga. nightclub back in March. It was the second time

Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in two years, although he hasn’t been legally charged for either allegation. ?But even if the law finds no wrong in Ben’s actions, Goodell said the league’s conduct policy does. “My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor,” Goodell stated in a letter to the six-year veteran quarterback. “That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”?

The suspension is awful news for Roethlisberger, who was hoping no action would be taken against him since he wasn’t charged by authorities. He will lose an estimated $2.8 million if he’s out all six games, but Goodell mentioned that the suspension could be reduced to four games for good behavior.

But while Roethlisberger sits out, a rare opportunity has been offered to one of the smallest clubs in the NFL.

In a league of 32 teams, there were only five Black quarterbacks projected to start heading into this season, including Washington’s Donovan McNabb, Tennessee’s Vince Young, Jacksonville’s David Garrard, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman and Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell.

But with Ben on timeout, the Steelers could likely start with veteran passer Byron Leftwhich or third-year reservist Dennis Dixon, both African Americans.

Both quarterbacks have played fairly well when given the chance to start in the past, and will now have a six-game tryout to prove they deserve the opportunity of a full-time starting gig.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor