In March 2010, Ben Roethlisberger found himself in the middle of a self-inflicted disaster. He was just accused for the second time in a year of sexual assault following an escapade of drinking in Midgeville, GA. Although the first incident involved no criminal charges and most people viewed it as an attempt at a money grab, this time the general public wasn't giving Big Ben the benefit of the doubt.
In the court of public opinion, stories about what happened that evening were circulating and with each time it was told, the story got more and more sensational. In the end, despite no arrest and no charges filed and all the evidence pointing towards Roethlisberger's innocence in a criminal matter, the public already formed their opinion of Big Ben and judged him to be guilty.
At that point, every story that everyone had about Ben's arrogance, being a bad teammate and behaving as if a different set of rules applied to him came out. Roethlisberger was left in a public relations nightmare and instantly became one of the least liked players in the NFL. Even legendary Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw publicly admonished Ben (assuming his guilt despite not knowing all the facts) which influenced the opinion of many.
Despite no criminal charges being brought against Ben, the NFL Commissioner suspended Ben for four to six games. Some believed race played a part (with the NFL wanting to show it was just as hard on white players as it was on black players) and others believe it was for image concerns for the NFL in general. Whatever the reason, Ben Roethlisberger was given a set of conditions to meet by Roger Goodell including counseling.
To this point in both his career and his life, Ben Roethlisberger had not faced true adversity, where he was truly challenged by life. He experienced unusual immediate success as a starter due to brilliant coaching and playing with great teammates that enabled him to be successful even when he didn't play well. Case in point, winning Super Bowl XL despite performing poorly. The moment overwhelmed Roethlisberger, but he came out a winner despite playing the worst statistical game by a winning QB in the game's history.
But the accusations, the negative publicity, the suspension and the embarrassment forced Roethlisberger to face ugly for the first time in his life. To date, he has responded as good as any person can be expected to. He surrounded himself with the right people, changed habits and took responsibility for his actions. Although there are some who will never let go of what they believe Roethlisberger did, many are simply fans of other teams that want Roethlisberger out of the picture.
The reality is that the humbling of the arrogant Roethlisberger was the best thing that could happen to him in the long run. He returned to the Steelers in 2010 as a better teammate and led the team to the Super Bowl, and even though it was not a victory, Roethlisberger accepted responsibility for the loss.
Although winning is important, there are things in life that are more important—and it seems that Roethlisberger has begun to realize that.