American Football: Steelers turn to Big Ben Roethlisberger in their hour of need

After three defeats the Pittsburgh quarterback will be under pressure at Wembley

Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, has two Super Bowl winners' rings, and his aim is to pass his legendary predecessor Terry Bradshaw, who won four between 1975 and 1980. But if he is to get closer to his target this season, he must inspire his team to start winning, beginning with the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley tonight.

Defeat would leave the Steelers, whose six Super Bowl victories lead the NFL, with no wins in their first four games, their worst start to a season for 45 years – not what was expected when the NFL announced the match-ups for its two regular-season games in London this year to widespread excitement at the Steelers' appearance.

Time, then, for "Big Ben" to rally his team-mates and remind them what it means to be a Steeler? Not only is he in an awkward position to criticise after a poor start to his own season, but he has never been comfortable assuming moral authority after off-field recklessness marked his early career.

He suffered head injuries in a motorcycle accident in 2006 after refusing to wear a helmet – somewhat ironic for an American footballer – despite warnings from the team, and even Bradshaw. But worse was to come.

Accusations of sexual assault in 2008 were followed by a repeat in March 2010, and although criminal charges were not brought in either case, the NFL imposed a six-game suspension, later reduced to four, for violating the League's personal conduct policy, and ordered him to undergo a behavioural evaluation.

Roethlisberger, though, has matured off the field as much as he has on it. In 2006 he became the youngest Super Bowl-winning quarterback when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. But although he ran in the team's opening score from a yard, he completed only nine of 21 passes for 123 yards, threw two interceptions and achieved the lowest quarterback rating by a Super Bowl winner.

But Roethlisberger, who idolised Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway as a youngster, buried those memories three years later in Super Bowl XLIII, throwing the game-winning pass to Santonio Holmes in the dying seconds of the 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa Bay.

Such comeback wins became a speciality as Roethlisberger set a host of team records, including beating Bradshaw's passing yardage mark, but he has preferred to be a silent leader by example, despite encouragement from Mike Tomlin, the head coach. "He needs to be what his team-mates need him to be, formally and informally, on the field and off," Tomlin said. "It's a very complex balancing act, but one that I think is done naturally for those that play that position, particularly as long as he has."

Roethlisberger understands the obligations on a quarterback, especially one who wears the Steelers' iconic black and gold. He said: "From the moment you walk into our building you see all those Super Bowl trophies, you know the level of greatness that is in that building, and what putting on that jersey and wearing that logo means, the countless players that are in the Hall of Fame, and the rich tradition.

"Being the leader of an offence of a team that has high expectations brings a lot of added pressure. But if you're an athlete and a competitor, you want that because it drives you and it motivates you. From day one, I learnt that from the older guys like Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis. And that is something now that I try to pass on to our younger guys – that there is a level of excellence and expectation. "

So, albeit reluctantly, Roethlisberger has spoken out, calling on his offensive line to "be tough, be nasty", and challenging rookie running back Le'Veon Bell to play through the pain barrier. "For us, not making the play-offs [would be] a disappointment because the level of expectation on us, and that we put on ourselves, is much higher," he said.

"What gets me up in the morning? Catching Terry Bradshaw and passing him. The motivation is to make this my best year. That's what I strive for."

Minnesota Vikings v Pittsburgh Steelers is on Sky Sports 2 today, kick-off 6pm

Super stats

Super Bowl wins

Pittsburgh Steelers 6

San Francisco 49ers 5

Dallas Cowboys 5

Green Bay Packers 4

New York Giants 4

Active quarterbacks at multiple Super Bowls

Tom Brady (New England) W3, L2

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) 2-1

Eli Manning (NY Giants) 2-0

Peyton Manning (Indianapolis, now Denver) 1-1

Roethlisberger's stats

Height 6ft 5in

Weight 17st 3lb;

Age 31

NFL career 10 years, 141 games; passing yards 30,692; touchdown passes 195; rushing TDs 14; interceptions 112

Suggested Topics
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss