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.

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
peopleActress tells men: 'It's your issue too'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam