American Football: Penny drops as Big Ben finally grows up

After sex assault allegations and a horror motorbike crash, the Steelers quarterback lines up in tonight's Super Bowl as a 'changed man'

In the Super Bowl more than any other game, the focus is usually on the two quarterbacks. The scrum around them on Media Day is the thickest, and their pivotal position as their teams' offensive generals guarantees more pressure and scrutiny on them than any other player.

That has been true in Dallas in the build-up to Super Bowl XLV here tonight, but while the talk surrounding Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has been of his part in one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers has faced questioning about a darker subject.

This should have been the week in which the 28-year-old could contemplate winning a third Super Bowl ring, which would put him in the exalted company of other three-time winners such as Troy Aikman of Dallas Cowboys and Tom Brady of New England Patriots.

Instead, the subtext of repeated press queries has been his behaviour on a night out in Milledgeville, Georgia, last March, which resulted in allegations of sexual assault against Roethlisberger from a 20-year-old student. In the end, charges were not brought, but the court documents – made public under Georgia law – provided ugly reading and the NFL suspended him for the first six games of this season, later reduced to four, under their personal conduct policy.

The fact that he had faced similar allegations once before, in 2008, did not help to elicit sympathy for a player who had seldom gone out of his way to make himself loved by the media, or many other people for that matter – including his team-mates.

His feeling that he was a law unto himself almost cost Roethlisberger his life in 2006 when he narrowly escaped death in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet. But in the last 11 months, the penny seems to have dropped for Big Ben – so much so that he won an award for media co-operation from the Pittsburgh press, which amazed even him. "It meant a lot to me," he said. "I know that they're doing their job. I can't take things personally that they say and write. I just wanted them to know that I apologise to them for ever being difficult to work with."

Although it has been noted that he has not directly addressed what did or did not happen in March, he has reached out in other directions to repair damaged relationships. "There were a couple [of players] that I was not as close to as I wanted and needed to be, and I worked hard to be a better team-mate," he said. "I've had a lot of apologising to do. I had to apologise to the Rooneys [the Steelers owners], I had to apologise to the fans. I wasn't always the nicest guy. I admit that. I feel like I've grown up a lot."

This week, some reporters have asked the quarterback whether leading the Steelers to a third Super Bowl title since 2006 would be an act of redemption, but it was arguably the most convincing sign of Roethlisberger's new self-awareness that he had rejected such a facile interpretation in a recent interview.

"I used to tell my Dad 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.' That's stupid, I know that now. That's what I mean about growing up. I realise now that I can use the platform I have for something good. It would be amazing to win another Super Bowl, but it won't be like I'll say: 'Do you forgive me now?' It'll be a step in earning back everything I've lost."

Action Packers: Where tonight's game could be won and lost...

Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback, had a thankless task in succeeding Packers legend Brett Favre three seasons ago, but has since made an attacking, five-receiver offence his own, with Greg Jennings his favourite target. His main problem could be the presence in the Pittsburgh secondary of Troy Polamalu, the strong safety who was voted this season's Defensive Player of the Year, and who has the anticipation and mobility to intercept the best-aimed of passes.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's quarterback, could find his biggest obstacle much closer to him – uncomfortably so. B J Raji, Green Bay's man-mountain nose-tackle nicknamed "The Freezer", will aim to punch a hole in the offensive line for Clay Matthews, the long-haired linebacker, to get into his face. It will not harm Raji's chances that centre Maurkice Pouncey is ruled out with an ankle injury, and his understudy Doug Legursky has started only four games in two seasons. But the Steelers have plenty of offensive weapons, including an arsenal of trick plays, and wide receiver Hines Ward is a proven big-game performer. If Roethlisberger can get the ball anywhere near him, Ward usually does the rest.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent