Speaking at the ManUp Pittsburgh event this past weekend, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger revealed his past struggles with addiction and how he was able to overcome them.
“It’s not always easy,” Roethlisberger told Tunch Ilkin, former Steelers player and current radio analyst. “People don’t realize all the time that us athletes, we’re human. We sin like everybody else. I am no different. We make mistakes. We get addicted to things. We sin. We’re human. I think sometimes we get put on this pedestal where we can’t make mistakes. I’ve fallen as short as anybody. I’ve been addicted to alcohol. I’ve been addicted to pornography, which makes me then not the best husband, not the best father, not the best Christian I can be.”
The 38-year-old signal caller added that by rededicating himself to his faith, he was able to overcome his vices.
“But you have to dedicate yourself and understand that you can get out of it because of the grace of God and him saying, ‘Listen, you’re good enough for me the way you are. You don’t have to be perfect.’”
Roethlisberger detailed how he found himself straying from God while in college at Miami University (Ohio), a pattern that he admitted to Ilkin continued during his early professional career. He was twice accused of sexual assault, and received a six game suspension in 2010 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Still, Roethlisberger explained that he was able to bring Christianity back into his life, providing him new purpose and making his faith stronger than ever. He renewed his baptism three years ago.
“One of the things I want to tell guys and tell people out there, I can be a really good athlete and a Christian,” he said.” It’s not one or the other. I can do both. I want it to be known to all of the young men out there, it’s cool to be Christian and be an athlete. Go ahead and be the best athlete you can be and see if you can be a better Christian. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to be a better Christian than I am athlete and football player. I push myself every day to do that, and it starts here. It’s not always easy.”
Roethlisberger also shared how his faith helped him overcome his season-ending elbow injury last year, and how he likely would have handled it differently just a few years ago.
“I’m so thankful that this injury happened during my walk that I’m in now,” he said. “I don’t know that I would’ve been able to handle it a few years ago, five, six, seven, 10 years ago. I know that my faith wouldn’t have been as strong. Now that I know what it’s about, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, God, this is in your hands. I’m going to go train my butt off to get back out there, and whatever you have for me, I’m ready.’”
Entering his 17th season, the two-time Super Bowl champion is the Steelers franchise leader in touchdowns, passing yards, completions and wins. Roethlisberger has been selected to six Pro Bowls, and has led the league in passing yards twice over his career.
Organized by Urban Impact and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, ManUp Pittsburgh is an annual event that “encourages and teaches men to be godly leaders for their families, and raises awareness of the devastating impact of fatherlessness among youth today.”
This year’s event was held virtually on Father’s Day. In addition to conversations with Roethlisberger and Tomlin, former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle also spoke during the program.