ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Mike Tomlin knew where to go even before seeing his nameplate on the table. The Pittsburgh Steelers coach headed directly toward the crowd of reporters waiting to ask him about Ben Roethlisberger.
Tomlin on Tuesday expressed his concern for his star quarterback, who is accused of assaulting a 20-year-old college student in a Georgia nightclub on March 5. Roethlisberger's lawyer says the quarterback committed no crime. Roethlisberger has yet to be interviewed by police in Milledgeville, Ga., and charges have not been filed.
Tomlin said he talks to Roethlisberger daily "about football, about personal life; that's the nature of our relationship."
"We've been pretty clear from (Steelers president) Art Rooney on down how we are approaching this," Tomlin added at the NFL meetings. "At this point, as the investigation runs its course, we'll have comments at the appropriate time."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken with Rooney and other members of the Steelers and said he will meet with Roethlisberger.
"He is well within his rights in terms of meeting with him and I share his concern," Tomlin said. "It's safe to say all of us are held to an extremely high standard; it's a privilege to be part of the NFL. We're all fortunate and blessed to be part of the NFL and, specifically, the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Roethlisberger also is being sued by a woman who says he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel. He denies the allegation and has asked for counter-damages.
Tomlin said Roethlisberger called him in the middle of the night this month to inform him about this latest matter.
"I think it's well known that we're very, very conscious about how we do business," Tomlin said. "We have a very high concern about our image and how we conduct ourselves that I think is above and beyond our peers, and we embrace that."
Roethlisberger skipped voluntary workouts with the team last week. Tomlin has no doubt the quarterback who has won two Super Bowls in his six pro seasons will attend all required offseason practices and training sessions. Those begin March 29 for the regulars.
"When it's time for him to be there, he'll want to be there," Tomlin said. "He doesn't mind toting the burden of being the guy carrying our football team."
Roethlisberger couldn't carry the Steelers back to the playoffs last season after they won the 2008 championship. Pittsburgh endured a five-game losing streak and finished 9-7.
Now, aside from trying to re-establish itself as a contender, Pittsburgh must deal with other issues.
"It's a distraction if we lose," Tomlin said. "We're paid to deal with distractions. They come with being successful, come with winning. Teams that are elite find ways of overcoming."