For those who don’t live in the US or follow American football, Ben Roethlisberger plays quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger won two super bowls, eight AFC championships, and is one of the most consistently winning quarterbacks in NFL history. When Roethlisberger retires, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that he will be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Roethlisberger was in the spotlight once again this week for presumably playing his last game at Heinz Field.
I have never been a fan of “Big Ben.” As a native Ohioan, I grew up rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are bitter rivals of the Steelers. Big Ben’s off-the-field actions also cast a long shadow over his reputation. Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in 2009 and 2010. The 2009 case ended in a settlement, whereas the 2010 case led him to being suspended for 6 games by the NFL (later reduced to 4).
The purpose of this post isn’t to throw stones or to vindicate Roethlisberger reputation. However, I think we can learn a lot from anyone when they give an honest assessment of their life. On Father’s Day, in June of 2020, Roethlisberger spoke virtually at “ManUp Pittsburgh,” an annual event hosted by Urban Impact and attended by Steeler’s coach Mike Tomlin. At the event, Big Ben opened up about his struggles with alcoholism and pornography:
It’s not always easy. People don’t realize all the time that us athletes, we’re human. We sin like everybody else. 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 . . . You have to dedicate yourself and understand that you can get out of it because of the grace of God.Ben Roethlisberger
Human behavior is multi-faceted and rarely can be explained away using a single variable. However, it is noteworthy that Roethlisberger specifically cited pornography addiction, along with alcoholism, as having played a destructive role–before crediting God for changing his life.