As you know, on Tuesday Ben met with Commissioner (Roger) Goodell in New York. Since then I have talked with the Commissioner about his review of this matter. As far as the timing of any disciplinary action, the Commissioner has told me he would like to take at least a couple of weeks for further review of this matter. So, I don’t expect we will be announcing any final decisions until the week after the draft, at the earliest.
Next, I want to say that I have informed the Commissioner that the Pittsburgh Steelers are prepared to take disciplinary action at this point. However, I want to make clear that any discipline will be agreed to and coordinated between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Commissioner. In other words, there will only be one disciplinary action.
Let me say at this point, we believe each of our players not only has a responsibility to live up to the highest standards on the field, but also to live up to equally high standards off the field. Receiving the support of Pittsburgh Steelers fans all over the world is something that must be earned.
I have made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards. We have made it very clear to Ben that there will be consequences for his actions, and Ben has indicated to us he is willing to accept those consequences.
As you may be aware, Ben has rejoined the team in participating in our offseason conditioning program. We allowed Ben to do this after we were convinced that he was sincerely contrite for his actions, as well having Ben’s assurance that he is firmly committed to working hard every day to regain the trust and respect of this organization and Steelers fans.
After imposing an appropriate level of discipline and outlining the steps we feel will be necessary to be successful as a player and a person, we intend to allow Ben the opportunity to prove to us he is the teammate and citizen we all believe he is capable of being. And we hope the entire Steelers community will allow Ben the opportunity to prove to them that he deserves their trust and their respect.
Next, I would like to say a few words about the Santonio Holmes trade to the New York Jets. Trading a player or releasing a player is never an easy decision. We have to take into account a number of factors. First and foremost, we must evaluate if that player is truly committed to trying to live up to the standards we expect. And on occasion, when a player makes a mistake, we have to evaluate whether the player is committed to taking the required steps to improve in the future.
As you can imagine, to keep our commitment to our fans to consistently put the best possible team on the field, we must also evaluate a player’s likely contribution, both in short term and the long term. Clearly Santonio is a very talented football player. But his multiple violations of League policies, and the additional off-the-field problems led us to conclude that it would be in the best interest of our organization to part ways. I wish Santonio all the best, and I hope he is able to do what is necessary to be successful both on and off the field.
Q. Will you impose the disciplinary action on Ben now, and what will it be.
A. No, as I said, there will only be one disciplinary action, and it will be coordinated with the Commissioner. Until we get to the point where we have agreed with the Commissioner what that action will be, that’s when it will be imposed.
Q. Were you concerned with the Steelers image through the course of all of this?
A. First and foremost, when we take these actions based on player conduct, in each case we have to evaluate what the player’s conduct is and his ability to contribute in the future. In terms of the team’s image, certainly I feel as though we have taken a hit, but an image is built over a long period of time. I certainly think there is a lot of goodwill left with the Steelers’ image, and that’s something we will try to continue to build on as we go forward.
Q. There has been a lot of speculation about trading Ben. Is there any truth to the reports that you’re discussing a trade?
A. We don’t talk about trades in advance. That’s been a consistent policy, and that’s the way we’ll proceed. The only thing I’ll add is that at this point we have not discussed a trade with any other club.
Q. Is it unusual to work with the League and come up with one course of discipline?
A. I would not say that’s uncommon. I think in most cases where there’s a disciplinary situation, there’s a lot of communication between the team and the League.
Q. Did you communicate with the League regarding the Santonio Holmes incident in 2008?
A. We had a conversation with the League about Santonio, and other players, yes.
Q. Do you feel it should fall more to the Steelers to administer the punishment, as opposed to the League doing it?
A. I think we’d probably prefer to do it that way, but the truth of the matter is we are dealing with a player who has a contract, we are dealing with a situation where there is a collective bargaining agreement and a players association that may or may not have input in it. So there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that probably prevent us from moving ahead on our own at this point.
Q. When you say discipline, do you mean suspension or something else?
A. I’d rather not get into the specifics at this point. It is something where I really would not like to preempt the Commissioner and what he is thinking, so Id’ prefer to just leave it at that at this point.
Q. Did you say you talked to him before he was allowed to go back to practice?
A. Yes. We did. We felt like we wanted to make sure we had Ben’s commitment that he was going to take steps to do the kinds of things he has to do to become a successful player and a successful person.
Q. You believe Ben is contrite? Is there something he had to do or say in order for you to believe that?
A. We have had multiple conversations, both myself and others in the organization, and we have had some very frank conversations. I think the key at this point is to make sure everybody understands that we look at this as sort of an ongoing journey, and that Ben is going to have to continue to demonstrate to us the commitment that he has talked about so far is also evident in his actions going forward.
Q. Does one of the steps involve counseling and/or rehab?
A. It could, but then again that is something we will have to discuss with the Commissioner.
Q. How bad of a hit do you think Ben’s image took?
A. It’s a situation where he is going to have to work hard through all of this to rehabilitate his image. There is no question that it has taken a hit, and we’ve told him it is going to be a long journey back and he is going to have to be up to meeting the challenge.
Q. Before the Georgia incident, did you ever have a conversation with Ben regarding his off-the-field conduct?
A. I can’t remember having any lengthy conversations with Ben that would be different from conversations we have had with our players in general regarding off-the-field conduct.
Q. Did what the district attorney in Georgia said in that news conference change your opinion at all?
A. I think we all learned some things in that press conference, but again, there were a lot of things discussed in the press conference that weren’t really fact but were conjecture almost. So I’m not going to say that my mind was made up from watching the press conference. I think we had concerns even before that. The main message in the press conference as far as we were concerned is that Ben was not going to be charged, so we moved from there.
Q. Can you talk about your emotions through all of this?
A. It has been a difficult situation. We have been very concerned about how our fans viewed the situation, and I think we understand that all of us in the organization have a lot of work to do in order to win the fans’ trust back
Q. Would you say you gave Ben the benefit of the doubt?
A. No, I am not sure I would say that. I think that we’re moving through a process here where we believe discipline is appropriate, and we’re discussing that with the Commissioner. We’ve discussed it with Ben and his representatives. So it’s a situation where we are giving Ben an opportunity to regain the trust and respect that he wants to have, and to regain the opportunity to be a successful football player for us. That’s where we are.
Q. Can you talk about the cumulative affect of the Reno case and this one?
A. I am not going to speak to the other incident other than to say we’re concerned about how all this might affect Ben. The incident in Georgia is the incident that we’re pretty much focused on at this point, and we’re dealing with the aftermath of that.
Q. Does first incident factor into the decision you make?
A. Well, again, Ben has not been charged with anything there, so it’s a different circumstance. I don’t think that incident factors in greatly into this situation.
Q. Regarding the Santonio Holmes trade, how does this affect the team on the field in the short term?
A. Santonio was a good player, a very productive player for us, so we will certainly miss him. It’s like any other situation when a player moves on, whether it’s through a trade or free agency. We have to make the adjustments and move forward as best we can. We think we have good players on the roster who can step up and do the job.
Q. You only got a fifth-round pick in the trade. Was it more important to get a high pick or to make a statement?
A. We would have taken a higher pick if somebody would have offered it to us. It was what it was. It was what the market was at the time. We decided that we wanted to move on with it.
Q. Did Ben’s situation have anything to do with Santonio being traded?
A. No. We had to evaluate Santonio’s situation on its own merits, and it was really just a coincidence that the two situations happened at the same time.
Q. How difficult has it been to deal with this situation?
A. It’s a difficult situation. But to be honest with you, I have had my share to deal with over the last few years. So you just do the best you can, and you try to move forward as best you can.
Q. Is it fair to say you now have a zero-tolerance policy with Ben?
A. Again, we have to evaluate a player given all the circumstances that present themselves when they present themselves. I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about what we might do next. The most important thing is that Ben stays committed to doing what he has to do to uphold his end of the bargain at this point.