Roger Goodell decreased Ben Roethlisberger's suspension from six to four games, which is only surprising if you failed to fully understand how his punishment was initially structured. Of course, some people are caught up in their own dim sense of outrage, saying Goodell should stick by his original stance. This argument ignores that Goodell's "original stance" laid out the stipulation that if Roethlisberger met certain conditions - counseling, better outward behavior - the suspension would be reduced.
Ever since the conditional suspension was handed down, it's been presumed that, barring another monstrous fuck-up (never entirely out of the realm of possibility) by Roethlisberger, it would end up being four games. A month ago, Goodell removed any doubt by praising Ben for going "above and beyond" in his efforts to improve his image.
So yay! See in at Heinz Field against Cleveland in Week 6. Have fun practicing without the team.
In more immediate matters, Byron Leftwich went down last night against the Panthers with what is now believed to a second-degree MCL sprain. Not sure what his recovery timetable will ultimately be, but he will almost certainly miss the opener against the Falcons, meaning Dennis Dixon will almost certainly get the start.
There has been some pushing for Charlie Batch to get consideration for a start, but veteran or not, the guy hasn't taken a single snap with the starting offense in the preseason. He probably got very few, if any, during training camp. He threw all of two passes during the 2009 season, which means fewer than Dennis Dixon. I don't care if he played well in Roethlisberger's absence in the 2006 season and has looked decent against scrubs during this preseason, there's no way Batch gets to start unless Dixon too gets hurt.
I wonder now if the coaches were being overly cautious with Dixon last night. He didn't get much playing time after Leftwich left the game. On one hand, after seeing the presumptive starter go down you probably want to improve Dixon's confidence and get him more reps after the dreadful outing he had in Denver (he did throw a nice TD pass last night) but you also don't want to risk another injury.
Dixon starting certainly makes for a more volatile and potentially exciting offense than with Leftwich. Of course, it also carries the threat of the mindless turnovers that we saw against Denver. I'm not sure exactly what to expect, other than the Steelers running the ball a lot. At the same time, hey, it's a week and half longer than he got to prepare against the Ravens last year.