When the Steelers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James in the third game of the regular season, they won’t have to contend with quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston said in a statement released on Facebook that the NFL informed him Thursday of its decision to suspended him three games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
The discipline stems from the league’s investigation of an accusation that the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner groped a female Uber driver during a ride the quarterback took in Arizona, where Winston was attending a charity event in March 2016.
The driver did not file a criminal or civil complaint, however she reported the incident to Uber. The NFL learned of the allegation when it was reported publicly last November.
Winston also will miss games against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. The first overall pick of the 2015 draft, Winston never has faced the Steelers.
The Bucs drafted Winston No. 1 overall in 2015, despite questions about the young quarterback’s behavior during his college career at Florida State.
Winston, 24, was accused of raping a fellow student at FSU but was never charged. The university settled a Title IX lawsuit over its handling of the allegations with Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, in January 2016 for $1.7 million.
Journeyman backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, barring injury or ineffectiveness, will start against the Steelers in Week 3. This is a favorable matchup for the Steelers: Fitzpatrick is 0-5 in his career against the Steelers, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,114 yards and six touchdowns against three interceptions. He has a career 79.9 passer rating when facing the Steelers, who have sacked him 14 times.
The Buccaneers also have Ryan Griffin and rookie Austin Allen on the roster at quarterback heading into training camp.
The league said Winston is required to have a clinical evaluation and cooperate in any recommended program of therapeutic intervention.
“All members of our organization are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the personal conduct policy of the NFL,” the Bucs said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Jameis put himself in a position that has been found to violate the policy and accept today’s decision by the commissioner.”
The suspension will cost Winston $124,411 of his base salary of $705,000 for the upcoming season. The quarterback is set to earn $20.9 million in 2019.