View Full Version : Steelers' Roethlisberger Displays Super Toughness

01-26-2009, 11:59 PM
Steelers' Roethlisberger Displays Super Toughness

By Jared Trexler, Contributing NFL Editor ... id=4206849 (

(Sports Network) - Bruises tell stories.

For most football players, bruises and broken bones are historical landmarks of furious hits, great games and devastating injuries. Lawrence Taylor's sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg and ended his career; the cold-to-the-touch marks and scrapes that covered Bart Starr after the Ice Bowl; any of the hits that gave Steve Young one his seven concussions or occurred during his MVP- crowning Super Bowl XXIX.

Yet, it can't be argued that Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered more hits than most. He was sacked 46 times in 2006, 47 more times in 2007 and 46 times this season -- seven off the 1983 franchise mark that sent Cliff Stoudt to the United States Football League the following spring.

However, for those who don't really KNOW Roethlisberger's story, all they see are the statistics that make up just a piece of the beating, and eventual rise to the top, that complete his story.


In the working class town of Findlay, Ohio, a name now set for smoke stacks and shopping mall billboards once couldn't even find the top of the depth chart.

Roethlisberger played wide receiver while head coach Cliff Hite's son, Ryan, lined up under center.

"My son throwing to Ben was a better combination," the elder Hite told the Toledo Blade at the time.

As it turned out, Roethlisberger's first wound was a bruised...ego.

He finally got the opportunity to start at quarterback as a senior, demolishing defenses for a staggering 4,041 yards and 54 touchdown passes. A season earlier, Hite threw for only 1,732 yards and 14 scores.

Not proclaiming to be wise beyond his years, Cliff Hite reflected to the newspaper in the years following Roethlisberger's torrid senior campaign, "I'm a nationally known knucklehead."


Despite an eye-popping final season in Findlay, recruiting coordinators were not lining up at Roethlisberger's doorstep.

Except Terry Hoeppner, an honest-to-goodness good man who happened to be one hell of a football coach. He saw Roethlisberger's big build and missile-rocket right arm, yet also saw immaturity and a large chasm for personal and professional growth.

Perfect for Hoeppner, a statesman who loved life and had a clear moral perspective of his place in it.

And soon enough, so did Roethlisberger.

He had a unique opportunity to play as a redshirt freshman, throwing for over 3,100 yards and 25 touchdowns. He attempted over 400 passes during his final two seasons, and threw for 4,486 yards and 37 touchdowns in the 2003 campaign.

He led the RedHawks to an unblemished conference record, a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll and a sound three-touchdown victory over Louisville in the GMAC Bowl.

On October 13, 2007, Roethlisberger joined John Pont and Bob Hitchens as the only RedHawks with retired numbers. While Big Ben was celebrating the fruits of his labor, the man who helped shape his collegiate legacy was waging a personal battle unlike any football contest.

Terry Hoeppner returned to Indiana to restore pride to the football program back in 2004, but while attempting to build up a program, a disease was attempting to destroy him.

He took three medical leaves after doctors removed a tumor from his right temple in December 2005, yet each time he returned to work with the same vigor and determination. He approached the disease the same way, but a mid-September 2007 CT scan revealed another brain growth.

He lost his battle in mid-June, and Roethlisberger suffered a wounded...heart.

"He has been a second father, a teacher and a friend," Roethlisberger said in a statement at the time. "He believed in me and I owe everything to him for where I am in life."

Where that is almost never came to fruition.


The fears of on-looker Sandra Ford spoke the emotions of a city, a team, a family.

Roethlisberger was riding his motorcycle in mid-June 2006, just months after becoming the youngest quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl title.

But this wasn't football. He wasn't wearing a helmet -- a fact made well aware to the Pittsburgh front office and one that constantly drew the ire of head coach Bill Cowher.

On that June morning, Roethlisberger was involved in a serious crash at a Pittsburgh intersection, suffering a 9-inch laceration to the back of his head, several lost or chipped teeth, a broken nose and a broken jaw (a whole lot of bruises).

He was listed in serious but stable condition after seven hours of surgery. First and foremost, family, friends and teammates expressed concern, however the "yeah, buts" grew as Big Ben grew stronger in his recovery.

Former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw once said while visiting Steelers training camp, "Ride it when you retire."

Luckily for Roethlisberger and the Steelers, retirement didn't come on that day in June. Instead, his legacy in perseverance continues to be written


The statistics supporting Roethlisberger's job as a game-manager or a budding star can be argued until the Terrible Towels stop waving.

He started 14 straight victories as a rookie, was unanimously selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year and led the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game. Critics will say the game-manager was exposed in throwing three interceptions that led to Super Bowl-bound New England's 41-27 victory.

Roethlisberger struggled at times during Pittsburgh's up-and-down 2005 regular season and missed four games due to various knee issues. However, Big Ben advocates pointed to a 7-to-1 touchdown-interception ratio during a three- game road trip through the AFC playoffs and a season that saw him finish third in passer rating behind Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning.

His Steelers, who made the big game because of Roethlisberger's right arm, then won the Super Bowl with Big Ben playing perhaps his worst game as a pro. Wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El will forever he known as the only player to throw a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL, which is a tough pill to swallow for the prideful signal-caller.

He dealt with an appendectomy, a concussion and a head coach who had seemingly lost a bit of his fire in 2006, resulting in Big Ben's first, and to date only, season out of the playoffs.

He adjusted and handled more responsibility during his first season under new head coach Mike Tomlin, then grew into the team captain and $100-million franchise player in 2008.

Through it all, Roethlisberger has bobbed and weaved his way to abundant success. The stats may not be eye-popping and the individual accolades may not be substantial. But one stat can't be disputed: Roethlisberger wins, and with a victory Sunday over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII, he will capture his second title in only five seasons.

"Ben is a special guy," Tomlin said after Roethlisberger had "managed" to throw for 255 yards and a touchdown in the 23-14 AFC Championship victory over Baltimore. "He is at his best in the midst of the most difficult adversity; in other years and in this year. Such was the case today. He recognized the magnitude of the game, and he did what his team needed him to do."

He does what he needs to do in a unique way, holding onto the football for lengthy periods of time, side-stepping rushers and scrambling for his livelihood all in the attempt to make plays.

"I don't care if he scrambles around and it's not pretty," said Steelers tight end Heath Miller. I just care if he wins."

Baltimore defensive end Trevor Pryce went one step further and gave the Cardinals some unsolicited advice.

"Don't pass rush," said Pryce. "Don't let him (Roethlisberger) play recess football because if you let him play recess football, he's the best in the business."

Bruises tell stories. And Pryce's came in the same fashion as many defensive rushers against Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

In defeat.

01/26 16:54:17 ET

01-27-2009, 01:31 AM
Sweet article! :tt1