Despite being a star player on each team's most hated rivals, Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger have something in common. It's not their championships, it's not their skill, it's not their leadership.
They have both have been accused of crimes they obviously didn't commit.
Both of the alleged crimes are considered the most reprehensible in society. Lewis's being murder, and Roethlisberger's being rape.
When Lewis was acquitted of murder, and charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice, his reputation was marred. Even to this day, his opponents say he was guilty and shout obscenities at him during games or over the Internet.
This coming season, Roethlisberger will face similar attacks, and it is likely that he will face attacks for the rest of his career.
Ben doesn't have a good track record when it comes to being shaken by a significant event. Following Super Bowl XL, Roethlisberger was injured in a scary motorcycle crash that could have taken his life.
Although he played in the 2006 season, Ben and the Steelers struggled all year, barely mustering an 8-8 record, including being the most sacked QB in the league. The Steelers were swept by the Ravens for the first time in franchise history, losing 27-0 and 31-7.
What Roethlisberger needs to do is to turn his tribulations around and benefit from them. In 2000, Ray Lewis faced considerable opposition and hostility. He turned it completely around to his benefit.
He used the hate directed toward him to fuel his motivation to be better than everyone else. And he proved it that season by winning the Defensive Player of the Year, leading his team to the Super Bowl, where they stomped the Giants 34-7, shutting out their offense.
To top it off, he was the Super Bowl MVP, only the second linebacker to do so, and the first linebacker on the winning team to win the award.
Ben Roethlisberger needs to keep his head together. If he doesn't, he will crumble like he did in 2006, and possibly take his team with him. It would be even better if he can turn all the hate and obscenities into motivation.
If he can turn his hardships to his advantage, then he will come out of this stronger than he was coming in. But if he lets this situation get to his head, it could be a disaster for the 2009 Steelers.