Ben Roethlisberger has spent his 2010 season doing some major recovery work for his legacy.
After missing the first four games of the season for violating the NFL personal conduct policy, Roethlisberger has helped lead the Steelers to a 12-4 record and a first round bye in the playoffs.
While Big Ben has some real personal work to do in changing his reputation, he could go a long way in reestablishing his legacy by winning his third Super Bowl. It might not bring him all the way back from his sexual assault allegations, but it would certainly help.
According to Roy S. Johnson, editor-in-chief of Men’s Fitness, athletes have a 4-pronged "program" to get back into the public's good graces.
"My Program is simple," Johnson writes in a column on ESPN.com. "The first three steps are 'contriteness' and 'humility' (delivered with clear sincerity), then 'acceptance' of any actions taken against them whether by courts or commissioners. In other words: Take the hit and pay the price."
Take the hit and pay the price. I like the sound of that.
Take responsibility for the actions that got you into your situation.
Normally I don’t like hearing what an attorney has to say about a client, but in this case I think what Roethlisberger’s attorney, David Cornwell, had to say about his client was just what the public needed to hear.
"He embraced his roots with his dad, his faith, and ultimately concluded Big Ben was not who he was nor wanted to be," Cornwell said. "He also didn't get hung up on how people were going to react to him anymore. He invested in value of authenticity and was willing to let chips fall where they may."
Look at that last line, "Let the chips fall where they may."
If that doesn't say Roethlisberger is willing to take the hit and pay the price, then I don’t know what does.
All that sounds great, but how does it relate to Roethlisberger’s on-field performance?
In Johnson’s column he finally mentions the fourth step to his "program."
"Authenticity is vital to every 'step' of the program, but the fourth and final one may be the most critical," he writes. "Perform.”
He cites examples of athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Josh Hamilton, who have been able to recapture their legacy by performing.
Bryant is an especially great example for Roethlisberger to emulate.
Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Eagle, Colo. in 2003, the night before he was scheduled to have knee surgery.
While Bryant denied the rape charge, he did admit to adultery. Eventually, the case was dropped when the accuser refused to testify, but the damage was done as far as Bryant’s image was concerned.
He lost endorsements and fans, but Bryant somehow turned things around. He was able to reconcile with his wife by taking responsibility for his actions before turning his energy back toward basketball, where he started having success again.
Bryant’s image slowly recovered, but it was helped along by his 81-point game in 2006 and championship runs in 2009 and 2010.
If the Steelers win the Super Bowl behind Roethlisberger's arm, it will be the cherry on top that helps get his legacy back on track. If he continues his success on the field, it might help people start to look past his misconduct off of it.
While a Super Bowl win would help Roethlisberger, he would be wise to consider a few words from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: "Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."