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In the early 2000s, Ben Roethlisberger became a celebrity figure for most anyone hailing from western Pennsylvania. A trip through the Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh revealed Big Ben jerseys, T-shirts, and hats being bought by the dozen, and cheers and chants rang through the city every Sunday when he took the field.
A native of Lima, Ohio, Roethlisberger was a standout high school athlete who led his high school football, basketball, and baseball teams to victory before being recruited to the University of Miami at Ohio in 2000. As a quarterback for the RedHawks, he played several outstanding seasons before being drafted to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004.
It wasn’t long before Roethlisberger led the Steelers to repeat Super Bowl stardom, helping to earn the team its 5th national championship win in 2006, with another win for the team in 2009.
Although Roethlisberger seemed on top of the world, he also faced intense public scrutiny shortly after his 2009 Super Bowl win. In two separate incidents, Roethlisberger was accused of sexual misconduct by two young women.
As a result of his actions, he was suspended from playing in six games in the 2010 season by the NFL. Although he received no formal charges, the public’s perception of the athlete was perhaps damaged forever.
Roethlisberger returned to playing, and his success with the Steelers hit roadblocks over the years, encountering injuries and stress with fellow teammates. Behind the scenes, Roethlisberger was in a relationship with a local woman, Ashley Harlan, and the couple married in 2011.
Today, after a season spent sidelined by injury, Roethlisberger is gearing up for a comeback. In a recent virtual event called “ManUp Pittsburgh,” he spoke out in a rare interview that showcased his vulnerability and admission of past mistakes.
Speaking to former Steelers player Tunch Ilkin during the event, Roethlisberger said, “I am no different. We make mistakes. We get addicted to things. We sin. We’re human. I think sometimes we get put on this pedestal where we can’t make mistakes. I’ve fallen as short as anybody. I’ve been addicted to alcohol. I’ve been addicted to pornography, which makes me then not the best husband, not the best father, not the best Christian I can be.”
Roethlisberger went on to detail that he had become distant from his faith during his college years. About three years ago, he was re-baptized into the Christian faith, and credits his spiritual growth for how he handled his recent injury.
“I don’t know that I would’ve been able to handle (the injury) a few years ago, five, six, seven, 10 years ago. I know that my faith wouldn’t have been as strong. Now that I know what it’s about, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, God, this is in your hands. I’m going to go train my butt off to get back out there, and whatever you have for me, I’m ready,'” he said during the event.
Roethlisberger was laser-focused on his success in the 2019 season, after experiencing a “crazy” offseason that notably included the departure of wide-receiver Antonio Brown. Then, in the second game, he tore his elbow.
Now 38 years old and a father of three, Roethlisberger has had a storied career in the NFL, and is poised for another season of success after successfully rehabilitating his injury.
As he speaks out about his past struggles, he reminds us that addiction can affect us all, and that each of us has the power to admit our mistakes. By using his public platform to discuss his addictions, and how he has used faith to guide him through the process of recovery, he gives hope to those who are struggling to overcome.
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