In truth, I fear for his life. I’ve witnessed too many reckless hits, too many smashmouth poundings and too many collisions.
Ever seen a franchise quarterback withstand the repetition of harassment and brutality on any giving Sunday?
So how does the mind of a man with a hollow, adventurous and mindless skull survive a brutal three-hour marathon in a Sunday night event, a meeting that has no boundaries but features unlimited onslaughts and sends him dropping to the frigid grass on a bone-chilling night in Baltimore?
It’s one thing for Ben Roethlisberger to act as if he’s a headstrong daredevil like another Evil Kenevil, arousing our senses with an enormous stunt scene on turf. The Pittsburgh Steelers, once as cuddly as stuffed-animals before forming into elites in the National Football League, are now greedy and stingy and earn victories from an elevating mindset fueled by the intensity of arguably the fiercest and greediest defense in the league.
And so it’s one thing for a rowdy crowd to provoke a physical altercation at M&T Bank Stadium as Ravens and Steelers fans initiated a fracas, thus ending when two Baltimore police officers slammed a Steelers fan’s face directly into a white wall and escorted him away from the venue as the incensed fan screamed in anger, it was surely the epitome for a much-malign opposition.
The uprising in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry percolates bad blood, fueled by the hard-hitting Ravens veteran linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, who always physically attacks the Steelers’ offensive line when he suddenly steamrolls his way pass the lineman to draw pressure and negate the capability of a durable passing game.
There is, believe it or not, a rivalry increasingly capturing our consciousness every time the Ravens play the Steelers in an alienated wrestling match. The certainty with the Steelers-Ravens ultimate tale, in afterthought, is that they both respect each other.
Well, to some extent.
It reminds us that the Steelers and Ravens dislike each other, and desperately deliver physical hits in the coolest and hottest rivalry in the NFL to cement a sense of eminence among two teams in a fight for claiming its division and transforming as the most exciting team in the league itself.
Now that the Steelers appears in control of the division race, a testament in reaching a climax or defying the odds of common reasoning again as a forgotten competitor, it’s almost believable to gather an assumption for which the Steelers could actually be the team to beat come this postseason.
The NFL is an unpredictable league. But just when it appeared the Ravens might crucify the Steelers with the scariest and deepest depth in the game, the only star player Baltimore pestered was a courageous Roethlisberger, coming on a reckless hit in the face during a pass attempt at the 12 minute mark in the first quarter. In this series, he was fiercely sacked by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and suffered a bloody nose in a bloody challenge against its archrivals as a bundle of unsympathetic hits sent players crashing to the turf and sidelined injured players.
Somehow, he has managed to perform through pain without missing action and, as usual, he led the Steelers to a nail-biting 13-10 comeback win.
The amazing thing that happened to Roethlisberger, in retrospect, was when he conquered his travails and has been given a second chance at redemption after he was accused of sexual assault charges for the second time in a year by a 20-year old student at a nightclub in a small Georgia college town.
With that in mind, he used to believe he was superhuman and had an apathetic attitude, putting his health in jeopardy by his foolish judgment on the field and off the field, either assuming he was above the law or god on the field each Sunday. For sure, he’s a risk-taker who is willing to take on a rigid or daring task.
Remember, he almost left the face of this earth in a near-death situation for riding his motorcycle without a helmet. Remember, there was a time when he periodically sustained concussions and recovered from severe head trauma quickly without becoming a human vegetable. And all the while he had an ailing right foot that was roughly taped and protected, on a night he sustained a broken nose in the first series, he threw for 253 yards and settled for a lone touchdown.
“Someone just came through and a hand got through my facemask,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “The next thing you know, I feel blood running down my face.”
It felt as if he was just involved in a street fight and punched directly in the face by a thug from the streets of Baltimore. As hard of a hit it was monstrously, his nose crooked to the side and blood drained down Roethlisberger’s face, leaving behind a stain on his white No. 7 jersey. During it all, he was attended to by trainers, and painfully, they tried to bend his nose back into shape.
“I look like I just went 12 rounds with [Manny] Pacquiao,” Roethlisberger said.
This after he delivered the knockout punch on a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaac Redman with 2:51 left in a developing rivalry. It’s not hard to emphasize that he’s still healing from the wounds in the most physical test, potent enough to endure the nagging pain of a broken nose and a damaged foot. The facet of this annual Baltimore-Pittsburgh duel, along with the brawls and continuous trash talk, is that Roethlisberger plays with emotion and heart.
And then lastly, he plays with a sense of fortitude, even if he can endure painful jolts on his ailing body. As he is on the path towards redeeming himself, this is a chance to restore his credibility and reputation, finally performing with grace and guts by leading the Steelers late in the fourth quarter.
If ever there has been a season in which redemption is the gist of saving his legacy, relieving all the dismay from an ill-sicken resume, it’s this season when the Steelers are 9-3 and can possibly win its division and surprise us again with Super Bowl triumph?
In all, the Ravens never trailed until late in the fourth as time dwindled and had a shot to waste a bulk of time on the clock, but on a second-and-5 from the Ravens 43, Joe Flacco stepped back to fire a pass when safety Troy Polamalu blitzed the Ravens star quarterback from behind and capitalized on a blindsided hit, while the Ravens lineman fell asleep and left Flacco unprotected.
“I just saw his back turned,” Polamalu said. “I felt like I saw the ball come down…The ball just came out.”
With consistent play, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley corralled the fumble and returned the ball 19 yards to the Ravens 9, which led to Roethlisberger’s late game heroics.
Beyond all, he is the factor in the Steelers pursuit, along with his charisma and smartness as to leading Pittsburgh. He’s a franchise quarterback, which tells us why the Rooneys gave the star quarterback a $102 million deal, embraced as symbolic hero within a franchise that pinpoints strong character, a trait Big Ben has shown since he was given a second chance to remain on his best behavior and conduct the Steelers as a franchise leader.
This always has a fitting end for a team with lots of firepower and star power.