Sports Spectrum Weekly

20 NFL players to watch in 2020: Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Through Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the 2020 NFL season,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting one Christ-following player each day for 20 days.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and two Super Bowls, and has been named to the Pro Bowl six times while collecting a slew of records to seemingly secure himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While he seeks another Super Bowl and Pro Bowl in 2020, he could also collect another award for the first time: Comeback Player of the Year.

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Last season was possibly the most disappointing of Roethlisberger’s career, as he injured his elbow in Week 2, resulting in surgery that kept him out the remainder of the season. He’d previously never played fewer than 12 games in a year. It was made even more disheartening considering his strong 2018, when he led the NFL in passing yards (5,129) and signed an offseason extension to keep him under contract through 2021.

He had felt pain in his elbow for years prior to last season, but that’s all gone now. Roethlisberger had three of the five flexor tendons in his right arm surgically reattached.

“No more sharp pains or dull pains in my elbow,” Roethlisberger said recently. “I’m thankful for that.”

In addition to throwing without pain for the first time in years, the 38-year-old has also been “pleasantly surprised how my arm strength has come back, maybe even better than it was before,” he said during training camp.

With Big Ben back, the Steelers expect to be back in the playoff hunt in 2020. They’ve missed out the past two years, but have qualified for postseason play in 10 of Roethlisberger’s 16 seasons (15 if you exclude last year). Pittsburgh has never finished with a losing record since selecting Roethlisberger 11th overall in 2004.

Rejuvenated on the field, he’s also thriving off the field in his relationship with Christ. Roethlisberger opened up about his faith on a couple different platforms over the summer, and his spiritual shift was detailed in the Fall 2020 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine.

He spoke in June during the ManUp Pittsburgh virtual conference, where talked about being raised in a Christian home, getting baptized and making his own decision as an adult to follow Jesus, and how he’s dealt with some personal struggles throughout his career.

“It’s cool to be a Christian and be an athlete,” he told the viewers. “Go ahead and be the best athlete you can possibly be, and see if you can be a better Christian. 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 to do that every day and it starts here (puts his hand on his Bible).”

A month later, Roethlisberger expanded on his faith journey on the “Table Forty” podcast with Matt and Leslie Holliday. He discussed his childhood, his lack of spiritual growth in college and early NFL career, and where he’s at now.

“I didn’t necessarily go away from my faith; I always believed,” Roethlisberger said. “I didn’t lose my faith in Him, but I didn’t grow. I didn’t grow as a Christian in college, and I wish more than anything I would have. I wish I would have been on the path of growth and trying to get closer to Him all through college because I can only imagine where I’d be now if I would have done that.”

Speaking publicly about his faith began with his Steelers teammates. Roethlisberger participates in weekly Bible studies in the team’s locker room, as well as couples studies and chapel the night before games. Despite knowing the QB was having a tough year with his injury last season, Steelers chaplain Kent Chevalier asked Roethlisberger if he’d be willing to share his testimony at one of the team chapels. He initially hesitated, but eventually agreed to do so before the team’s final game of the season.

During his message, the father of three shared about how much God loves and has forgiven him, and how much God loves and will forgive them.

“If any of you have kids, raise your hand,” Roethlisberger said that night, as told on the podcast. “If you have one kid, would you let your kid die? I wouldn’t let my kid die for any of you in here. I love you all to death, but I wouldn’t let my son die for any of you guys, or anybody for that matter.

“And He loves us so much that He let His Son die for us. That love, it just doesn’t make sense, but I’m so thankful for it.”

Pittsburgh opens the 2020 season on Monday, Sept. 14 on the road against the New York Giants.

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