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Big Ben won't come clean at Super Bowl
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If Fleury could block shots in the same fashion that Roethlisberger has deflected questions about his notorious past, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be guaranteed the Stanley Cup.
Roethlisberger may as well have brought pads, a hockey mask and a goalie stick to his team's first Super Bowl week media session earlier this week. During 22 minutes of rapid-fire questioning, the leader of Pittsburgh's other beloved franchise provided no meaningful insight into how his previously “stupid” behavior makes him the game's (FOX pregame at 2 p.m. ET, kickoff at 6:29 p.m. ET) most intriguing comeback story.
There was nothing introspective on how he has changed since a second allegation of sexual assault led to a four-game NFL suspension to start this season. The same goes for a Sports Illustrated report that quoted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as saying he spoke with roughly two dozen Steelers about Roethlisberger before levying the punishment and "not a single player went to his defense." (Note: Sports Illustrated later issued a clarification stating Goodell spoke with players about Roethlisberger but wasn't specifically referring to Steelers players.)
Roethlisberger instead gave short stock answers to a throng of roughly 100 media members with a wide grin that bordered on insincere — and quite possibly was.
One example came when Roethlisberger was asked whether being in Super Bowl XLV gives him any sense of redemption.
"Well, I think that's a great reflective question," he said. "The time for reflection is probably after the (season). So for me, I can't reflect now. I've got to think about this game."
Roethlisberger is willing to travel down memory lane, but not with a group of strangers in an unfamiliar setting. That became obvious Sunday in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column.
Roethlisberger opened up at Steelers headquarters to Ron Cook, a columnist he has known since he entered the NFL in 2004. Among several interesting revelations, Roethlisberger admitted he was taking his Big Ben nickname too literally before last March's drunken escapades with a female college student led to his temporary downfall.
"I don't know how to say this without it sounding really bad, but I used to tell my dad and my agent and my closest friends, 'If I can win a Super Bowl or two or three, nobody can say anything to me. I can do anything I want,' " Roethlisberger told Cook. "That's just stupid. I know that now."
Stupid also describes the way Roethlisberger is handling this situation.
Roethlisberger claims he wants to meet the behind-the-scenes expectations that come with being one of the NFL's top players. Steelers brass and teammates have said Roethlisberger is doing better in that regard than before. His stellar play hasn't diminished, either.
"I want to be a role model," Roethlisberger said Monday. "I want people to look up to me. I like when kids wear my jerseys."
There is no greater stage for Roethlisberger to follow through on this quest than during Super Bowl week. In his case, words really can speak just as loudly as actions. An athlete in Roethlisberger's position can inspire others by sharing details about what he did wrong, why it happened and how he has found what he describes as "inner peace" while becoming a "better person."
Kerry Collins did something similar at Super Bowl XXXV when he was quarterback for the New York Giants. Collins devoted one day of his media access to field questions about his battle with alcoholism and subsequent recovery. After his story was told, the book was closed and the media moved on.
Roethlisberger easily could do the same this week. But he'd rather spew clichés and dodge inquiries as if Green Bay's Clay Matthews were closing from behind in the pocket.
"We're all human," Roethlisberger said. "We all make mistakes. It's how you bounce back. It's just like in football. You throw an interception, you lose the game. You've got to be able to bounce back and find a way so it doesn't happen again. Absolutely, it's important to see how somebody comes back from those things."
In his case, it's important to hear about them as well.