I don’t know if Ben Roethlisberger has learned a lesson this season. I don’t even know if Roethlisberger knows. We remember best what we saw most recently: an AFC Championship sealed with a clutch rollout and pass to Antonio Brown on third-and-6 from the Jets’ 40. That was the end. The beginning seems to have faded: a six-game suspension of Roethlisberger (reduced to four games) for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
But the Super Bowl – with a record 5,082 media members credentialed this year – tends to revitalize issues which in Pittsburgh long ago had sunk to the bottom of the Monongahela River. Roethlisberger had been politely refusing to address most questions regarding the accusation – for which he was never charged – that he had sexually assaulted a Georgia college student following a night of drinking in March.
“I feel like I’ve grown up a lot,” Roethlisberger told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week.
Fans and the media laud Roethlisberger, who is 10-2 in the postseason as a starting quarterback with two Super Bowl victories, for his clutch performances under pressure. We expect this infallibility on the field to translate off the field and act shocked and hurt when it doesn’t. As Roethlisberger himself said in his comments to the Post-Gazette, “I don’t know how to say this without it sounding really bad, but I used to tell my dad and my agent and my closest friends, ‘If I can win a Super Bowl or two or three, nobody can say anything to me. I can do anything I want.’”
Not according to the only other Steelers quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw, who won four, has been one of Roethlisberger’s most outspoken and staunchest critics. But even he seems to be changing his mind about his oft-maligned successor.
In an April harangue against Roethlisberger, Bradshaw called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to uphold the six-game suspension. He generally criticized Roethlisberger’s off-field behavior, concluding: “Now he hates me forever.”
But as American humorist (and Wisconsin native!) Arnold H. Glasgow once remarked: “Nothing lasts forever – not even your troubles.” Earlier this week, Bradshaw and Roethlisberger privately cleared the air.
During his Super Bowl Media Day session, Roethlisberger told reporters that he believes he is a better man than a year ago but mostly declined to answer any questions that strayed off the field. “It’s not time to reflect,” he said, “because really it’s about this game.”
A game for which he may be unexpectedly fresh, because his four-game suspension also coincidentally handed him a rare commodity in the NFL: rest. Roethlisberger did not play a down this season until October 17th (he returned to the Steelers after a bye week).
The guy has made a career of escaping pressure. He has an instinct for making the right moves. He knows how to take a beating. He has become a hero for surviving … and surfacing as a winner.
Roethlisberger had told the Post-Gazette that it took losing nearly everything for him to find his “inner peace” at age 28. If he can claim his third Super Bowl ring in six seasons, he may finally find peace on the outside too.
About the Author
Written by Lisa Edwards
I am a former producer at ESPN and currently run my own television production company. I also am a field producer for the NFL Network.