April 21, 2010— -- Super Bowl star Ben Roethlisberger takes his share of hits as quarterback, but none as stinging as the rebuke from the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"There is nothing about your conduct," he said, "that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."
Goodell slapped Roethlisberger with a six-game suspension over allegations of sexual assault in March.
Specifically, a 20-year-old college student said Roethlisberger bought her alcohol shots at a bar and then raped her in the bathroom -- though the local district attorney said there was not enough evidence to press charges.
Goodell doesn't seem to care.
"You don't have to be convicted of a crime or even charged with a crime," he said. "If there is a pattern of behavior that reflects poorly on yourself and the team, and the league in general, it's important for us to have early intervention to stop that behavior ... so that they live up to the standards that people expect in the NFL."
Roethlisberger also faces a civil suit from another woman, who claims he assaulted her in 2008.
The NFL has been at the forefront of sports trying to clean-up the "men-behaving-badly" image.
In 2007, Goodell instituted a personal code of conduct, telling players "you are held to a higher standard" than the law.
Many players agree.
"One thing people don't realize about this game of football [is that] we have lines ... we have out of bounds on the field as well as out of bounds off the field," said Deion Sanders, a retired NFL great. "When you step beyond the lines, there are going to be legalities and guidelines. ... Mr. Goodell wants to make sure that he is ready for life, because this is bigger than football."
Goodell suspended Michael Vick for dog fighting, and has issued suspensions for drug use, fights at nightclubs, drunk driving and gun violations.
"The NFL is an $8-billion-a-year business," said Chris Mortenson, an analyst for ESPN, "and so they really believe in reputation. The stain upon the shield is bad business."
Roethlisberger's suspension will cost him $2 million in pay -- and maybe even more. Some people are calling on the Steelers to trade him.
One unidentified voice on the radio today described him as a "time bomb."
Goodell said he would review Roethlisberger's progress prior to the start of the regular season and that the suspension could be reduced to four games instead of six.
Likewise, if Roethlisberger does not cooperate with his full suspension plan, which includes a comprehensive behavioral evaluation, it could result in a longer sentence.