By Simon Evans
DALLAS (Reuters) - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Ben Roethlisberger received no backing from his Pittsburgh Steelers team mates when he interviewed them as part of a disciplinary inquest into the two-times Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Goodell's comments, published by Sports Illustrated on Monday, come on the day that Roethlisberger and the Steelers arrived in Dallas to prepare for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers.
Roethlisberger was suspended by Goodell for six games, later reduced to four, after he was accused of sexual assault last year.
No legal charges were ever brought in the case but the player was suspended for breaching the league's "personal conduct policy."
Goodell said that he had spoken to "I bet two dozen (Steelers) players" as part of his investigation into Roethlisberger.
"Not one, not a single player, went to his defense. It wasn't personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, 'He won't sign my jersey,'" he said.
The commissioner, who has made improving off-field conduct a major priority, said he "doesn't feel any connection" with the former Pro Bowl quarterback.
Speaking to reporters after landing in Dallas, Roethlisberger contested Goodell's view and said players had spoken up for him.
"I know for a fact that when the commissioner came to the training camp and talked (to them) a lot of guys, kind of, did," said Roethlisberger. "I'm just thankful my team mates are who they are and I'm really appreciative of them."
The burly, 28-year-old Roethlisberger will be striving for his third Super Bowl ring in six years when he takes the field at Cowboys Stadium.
After sitting out his suspension, Roethlisberger helped the Steelers compile a 12-4 record to become the AFC's second seed, steering them past division rival Baltimore in the playoffs and then downing the New York Jets in the AFC championship to improve his career postseason record to 10-2.
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg/Frank Pingue)