Using a “roller coaster” as a metaphor to describe someone’s life journey is as cliché as it gets, but there’s no better way to describe Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's time on and off the field in the NFL.
He entered the league without instant-savior expectations, but he turned out to be just that. Big Ben quickly went from being on top of the world to being on top of a car. A down year followed even more success, making his already rather large cranium even bigger, which was followed by more down years.
And now he’s married. Obviously, his quest back to seeing the world without beer goggles on wasn’t that simple, so get ready to relive his rocky road to matrimony...
Going into his first year as a pro, he was nothing more than the quarterback with a funny last name from some small school in Ohio who was picked after Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Roethlisberger began the season as the third quarterback on the depth chart, but after a Charlie Batch preseason injury and Tommy Maddox being taken out by the Ravens in Week 2, Big Ben was forced into early action.
Being “forced” to do something often involves a negative aspect, but not for the Steelers in 2004. Roethlisberger led the Steelers to 13 straight wins as they finished the regular season 15-1, but they fell to the Patriots in the playoffs, who would go on to win their third Super Bowl in four years.
Sophomore slump? Think again. The very next year, Roethlisberger quarterbacked the Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory since the '70s, with Jerome Bettis and Bill Cowher each winning their first as the headline.
Just a few months after winning his first ring, Roethlisberger apparently believed the law was optional for Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Without a valid license and helmet, Big Ben was blasted on a motorcycle by a turning car. He was flung over the handlebars, his head shattering the car’s windshield.
His first run-in with the law, even though it was minor, was a sign of things to come. Riding without a helmet seems like nothing but plain carelessness, but the pride that would plague him later on in his life was really what began to show.
Roethlisberger went on to have the worst season of his career, throwing a whopping 23 interceptions and finishing the year with a quarterback rating of 75.4. Coincidence? Hardly—there was definitely something wrong with his head (ba-dam-ch).
Big Ben bounced back from his down year with even more force than his head did off that car’s windshield.
He recorded a 104.1 quarterback rating in 2007, and in 2008 he returned to the Super Bowl once again. Roethlisberger didn’t have a memorable performance against the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, but against the Cardinals, he capped off a back-and-forth game with a drive for the ages. Down three from the Steelers' own 22-yard line with 2:30 left to go, Ben led Pittsburgh’s offense on a drive that ended with Santonio Holmes’ incredible game-winning sideline snag.
Roethlisberger followed up Super Bowl victory No. 2 with drawing two sexual assault accusations in two straight offseasons. He was never convicted of a crime, but false accusations or not, the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t handling himself very well off the field, to say the least. Big Ben was suspended four games by Roger Goodell after the second stir.
Ben bounced back, yet again. The Steelers somehow went 3-1 without their Pro Bowl passer under center. They finished with a 12-4 record on the season and fought their way to yet another Super Bowl berth.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers came up short to the Packers, but for a year that began with the future of their franchise quarterback being uncertain and drawing many projections that had them failing to make the playoffs, the season could’ve ended much worse.
The city of Pittsburgh quickly forgave its quarterback after he produced win after win, but that’s no reason to forget what happened the offseasons before. A change in priorities and in his character, on the other hand, is a reason to forgive the man, and it looks like Roethlisberger has changed for the better.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he married Ashley Harlan on Saturday afternoon, July 23. If he wasn’t a changed man, the parents, noted for raising a strong Christian family, would've have said "no" like the girl in the club, and not "yes" when Roethlisberger asked for permission to marry their daughter.
At just 29 years old and with already two Super Bowl victories under his belt, look for Roethlisberger to continue to win football games in bunches. He has one of the league’s best defenses behind him, along with a wife who will keep him from getting back into trouble.
Sports Illustrated’s Kerry Burns showed just how talented Roethlisberger is, comparing him to Peyton Manning and proving with multiple statistics that the two belong in the same category. I wouldn’t call Roethlisberger Peyton’s equal, but there’s no doubt he deserves mention among the game’s elite.
You can’t call him conventional, but productive is another story. The man can drag defensive linemen and shake off linebackers like it’s nothing. Pittsburgh’s receivers can basically play backyard football and run back and forth until they get open because of his ability to buy time.
Who knows just how close the Steelers were to trading Roethlisberger last offseason? They didn’t though, he turned his life around and now they’re guaranteed to contend for the next half-dozen years because of that.
David Daniels is an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and a Syndicated Writer. Follow him on Twitter.