Roethlisberger attributes success to faithWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
People have different ways of handling stress. Some run from it, some bury it and some find a way to deal with it. Depending on the individual’s position or social status, some are forced to face it head on, often turning to God or a higher power for help in the process. Such is the case with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Findlay graduate Ben Roethlisberger, who in the most tumultuous season of his career said faith has meant everything.
“It’s helped bring a lot of inner peace, and if people know about inner peace, they know how great it is,” Roethlisberger told Toledo Free Press Jan. 27 in the Steelers locker room. “None of this would be possible without Him. It’s an awesome thing.”
From his motorcycle accident in 2006 to allegations of sexual assault that cost him the first four games of the 2010 season without pay after being suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, Roethlisberger’s off-the-field issues have been well-documented. Though Roethlisberger’s character may be questioned long after his playing days are over, his talent and focus on the field will not.
At age 23, Roethlisberger became the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl when Pittsburgh defeated Seattle 21-10 at Ford Field in Detroit in 2006. In 2009, Roethlisberger’s touchdown pass to former Buckeye Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIII lifted the Steelers to a 27-23 victory over Arizona, giving him his second championship ring in four years. Even after missing the first four games of 2010 and undergoing mandatory “comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals” per Goodell’s punishment, Roethlisberger has been spectacular. In just 12 games, he passed for 3,200 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, then led Pittsburgh to playoff wins over the Ravens and Jets en route to his team’s third Super Bowl appearance in six seasons.
“I think he’s just being himself,” said Pittsburgh left tackle Max Starks, whose locker has been next to Roethlisberger’s for his entire career. “I think for a long time he kind of felt sheltered and guarded off just because of all the attention people place on him, wanting to see the expectations instead of just letting him be himself. I think now he’s finally just said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to be myself.’ That’s what you want to see in your quarterback.
“You want him to feel like he can be an individual and just relax. I think that he’s done that this year and it shows. He’s a pretty consistent type of person, and we were happy to have him back.”
Since his high school days with the Findlay Trojans, it was obvious Roethlisberger had a gift to play the game. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 241 pounds, his nimble feet and agility for a man of his size have made him one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL to defend. Roethlisberger is a big reason why the Steelers are headed to the franchise’s eighth Super Bowl, tying the Dallas Cowboys for the league record.
“It’s great,” Roethlisberger said. “I love being a Steeler. I’ve always loved being here. I want to play my whole career here, so it’s an awesome thing. The fans are awesome. My team’s awesome. It’s really a blessing to be here.”
Roethlisberger is also thankful to have been blessed with some great coaches. While playing at Miami (Ohio) under the tutelage of the late Terry Hoeppner, Roethlisberger finished his career with the RedHawks as the school’s all-time career leader in total offensive yards (11,075), passing yards (10,829), passing touchdowns (84), passes attempted (1,304) and passes completed (854).
Under longtime Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in NFL history to guide his team to the conference championship game in his first two seasons, the second of which ended with Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XL victory. Roethlisberger and the Steelers have thrived under current head coach Mike Tomlin, who in his second year at Pittsburgh became the youngest head coach in league history to win a Super Bowl when he led the team to a championship in 2008.
“Everyone obviously knows — they should know — how close Coach [Hoeppner] and I were,” Roethlisberger said.
Hoeppner was 59 when he died of complications from a brain tumor June 19, 2007.
“That’s one of the hardest things about doing this, is knowing that he’s not here with me to enjoy at least the process, but I know he’s got the best seat in the house. It’s been an honor to be able to play for a Hall of Fame coach like Cowher and I feel a future Hall of Famer in Coach Tomlin.”
If the 28-year-old Roethlisberger can lead the Steelers to another Super Bowl victory when his team takes on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 in Cowboys Stadium, he will become just the fifth quarterback in NFL history with at least three championships under his belt, joining the ranks of Tom Brady and Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman.
Not bad for a kid from Northwest Ohio. While Roethlisberger’s parents no longer live in the Northwest Ohio area, he said he appreciates the support from local fans, adding that he changed his hometown from Findlay in the player guide because he once attended school at Cory-Rawson and “wanted to show them a little bit of love.”
Love him or hate him, “Big Ben” is the real deal on the football field. Only time will tell if the Northwest Ohio product has changed for the better, but it’s not for us to judge. If Roethlisberger truly is a man of faith and has found inner peace, he knows one day he will have to answer to a much higher judge.