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Roethlisberger’s Redemption: Big Changes from Big Ben Have Steelers One Step from Big Game

After tarnishing his reputation off the field and within the organization, Roethlisberger's road back has Steelers one step from Super Bowl XLV

There’s a funny thing about life I haven’t quite figured out just yet.  In the darkest of times, that’s when the sun seems to shine the brightest, and when you feel like you’ve reached the worst moment in your life, you look back and reflect only to realize that it turned out to be a one of your best, if not most necessary turning points in your life. 

In the NFL, we as fans have been fortunate in 2010 to witness two, work-in-progess redemption stories:  Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.  Each has taken a different path on the road to redemption.  Vick’s ultimately led to a division title and a playoff berth while Roethlisberger’s journey will either conclude today or in Dallas in Super Bowl XLV. 

It was just 10 months ago that Roethlisberger’s off-the-field transgressions brought upon shame and embarrassment to himself and the Steelers.  In Milledgeville, GA., Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in a nightclub bathroom.  Although he was never officially charged with a crime in the incident, the damage was done and took a toll on more than just Big Ben.  For his public humiliation of himself, the Steelers and the NFL, the league handed down a six-game suspension, which was later reduced to four games, for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. 

Encased in turmoil, everyone had enough.  In 2006, Roethlisberger was invovled in a motorcycle accident in Pittsburgh in which he wasn’t wearing a helmet, driving without a valid license and was deemed being careless and inconsiderate of the Steelers’ organization and his football career.  The Steeler nation was outraged, many calling for his trade or release from Pittsburgh.  Owner Art Rooney II was less than pleased, placing his franchise quarterback under a zero-tolerance policy.  Trade rumors picked up steam at last April’s NFL Draft.  A critical piece in the Steelers’ two Super Bowls in six seasons with the Steelers,  Roethlisberger was standing at the cross roads of his life.

He had two way to go out it: either shape up and grow up, or ship out and become someone else’s headache.

Big Ben vowed vehemently to change.  He would be a better person, a better teammate, a better citizen in the community.  He asked for patience and forgiveness, two things the Steelers appeared short on at the time.  This was his last strike.  There would be no more “I’m sorries”.  Words are just words without meaning and sincerity behind them. 

Having to sit the first four games and leave his teammates to clean up his mess, Roethlisberger returned and needed to make it right.  He needed to earn back the trust of the fans, his teammates and coaches and the Rooney family.  That’s where winning comes into play.  Keep your nose clean, rebuild your image from the ground up and win. 

His talents were never in question, only his decision making and judgements away from the gridiron.  Since returning to the Steelers in October, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to nine wins and the AFC North division title.  He threw for over 3,000 yards for the fifth straight year, which is a new franchise record.  In 12 games, he threw 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions.  Playing behind a leaky offensive line missing both starting tackles, Roethlisberger has played through the pain, dealing with a broken nose and foot.  He was also given the “Chief Award”, given out annually by the Pittsburgh media for his cooperation with reporters, an award nobody thought Roethlisberger would receive ten months ago.   But he promised a change for the better as a person, to be more accessible.  So far, so good.

Playing with a busted nose and a ailing foot, perhaps it’s Big Ben’s way of paying back his teammates for the embarrassing, selfish act in Georgia.  Busted and bleeding, Roethlisberger has a been a warrior, back at the helm to lead the troops he previously abandoned.   After beating the hated Baltimore Ravens 31-24 last week in the Divisional Round, Roethlisberger’s playoff record is now 9-2, a better winning percentage than both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. 

Time, actions and winning have all helped heal the once broken relationship between Big Ben, the Steelers and the fans.  In the worst of times, he was on the verge of losing it all shaming the fans and the city who welcomed him and loved him for what he’s done in just six short seasons with the Steelers.   From a child came forth a man.  He’s moved on from what happened ten months ago and moved away from the person he once was.

Now, he hopes to move the Steelers and the Steeler nation on to Dallas, the site of Super Bowl XLV.

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