In the heart of Pittsburgh, where steel mills once dominated the landscape, another indomitable force rose to prominence — Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback who changed the game for the beloved Steelers football team. For nearly two decades, Roethlisberger’s impact has been nothing short of transformative, elevating the franchise to new heights and etching his name in the annals of football history.
“God has blessed me with an ability to throw a football and has blessed me to play in the greatest city, in Pittsburgh with the greatest fans and the greatest football team and players,” said the gridiron legend. “And it has just been truly a blessing and I’m so thankful to him for the opportunity that he’s given me.”
A Fitting Nickname
Why was Roethlisberger called Big Ben? It’s not just a nod to his height. Standing at 6 feet, 5 inches tall, he commanded the field like the iconic Duquesne Brewery clock that towers over Pittsburgh. But the origin traces back to his days as a RedHawk at Miami University in Ohio.
He shared on his “Footbahlin With Ben Roethlisberger” podcast, “We were playing at Akron at home. It was the last play of the game, we had the ball on our own 25-yard line. I threw a Hail Mary and we caught it and won it. So the play that we scored on, our coordinator put the play in, it was called Big Ben. Had nothing to do with me. It was just play he brought with him from where he was before. So we scored on it, and it was like ‘Big Ben strikes,’ meaning like the play Big Ben but then people ran with it.”
Steelers Score With Big Ben
Before Roethlisberger donned the black and gold, the Steelers had a storied history. The team, founded in 1933, experienced hurdles, with no championship wins for nearly 40 years. But the ’70s marked a turning point. Led by coach Chuck Noll, the iconic “Steel Curtain” defense, and the iconic QB Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers won four Super Bowl titles. The ’80s and ’90s saw some challenges, but the Steelers’ strategy to remain a force endured.
Then, in 2004, when flip phones were still a thing, the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger in the first round as the 11th overall pick. Right off the bat, it was clear he was going to change the game.
Ben Roethlisberger’s impact on the Steelers franchise was immediate. The rookie season? A stellar 13-0 record as a starting quarterback. Big Ben’s ability to read defenses and make those clutch plays led the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory in 2006 — in just his second season — making him the youngest quarterback to date to win the title. Following that was his second win at 2009’s championship game.
Still, Roethlisberger knows better than most that teamwork makes the dream work. He could throw all the balls he wanted, but without household names like Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, and Heath Miller — legends in their own right — to catch, all his efforts would have been for naught. Each receiver brought a unique skill set to the table, and Roethlisberger’s ability to develop chemistry with different talents speaks volumes about his adaptability as a quarterback.
“Just a bunch of guys that fought for each other, that fought their butts off and just competed,” Roethlisberger mused. “It wasn’t always pretty, but there are a lot of games that we found a way. I’m so proud of this group of men and the way they fight for each other, for the black and gold, for our fans. It’s just been an honor to play with them.”
Guidance Beyond the Gridiron
Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t just calling plays on the field; he was also the spiritual guide for the Steelers. Before hitting the field, Big Ben would rally the team for locker room prayers. Pregame, he was the guy who brought the team together. Whether it’s encouragement, a prayer, or just a moment of unity, Roethlisberger’s impression on the team went beyond touchdowns. It was about building a brotherhood that stood strong.
”One of the things I want to tell guys and tell people out there, I can be a really good athlete and a Christian,” he said at a virtual conference for Christian men. “I want it to be known to all of the young men out there, it’s cool to be Christian and be an athlete. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to be a better Christian than I am athlete and football player. I push myself every day to do that, and it starts here. It’s not always easy.”
Aside from football, Big Ben has established a lasting legacy through his numerous contributions to the city of Pittsburgh. How has Ben Roethlisberger contributed to his community? His charitable organization, the Roethlisberger Family Foundation — formerly called the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation — has been instrumental in supporting K-9 units in police and fire departments, as well as collaborating with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Active in charities, community events, and youth programs, Roethlisberger became more than a quarterback. He became a hometown hero, embodying the spirit of Pittsburgh.
Now, let’s settle the debate. Is Ben Roethlisberger a legend? Without a doubt. Super Bowl wins, Pro Bowls, franchise records, and the ability to handle pressure with the best of them — he transformed the landscape of the game for the Steelers. It’s not only about the numbers; it’s about the impact, and Roethlisberger’s impact was monumental.
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t just play football; he redefined the legacy of the Steelers. On and off the field, his influence is indelible. As he embarks on the next chapter, his legacy will continue to resonate through the streets of Pittsburgh, forever etching his name as one of the all-time greats in Steelers history.
Upon his retirement from the field, he declared, “Being a husband and father, it never takes a day off. You got to keep going. As we move from one chapter to the next, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
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