Steelers QB Roethlisberger promises 'new Ben'
Saying a warped sense of self — not a drinking problem — drove the behavior that nearly brought down his career in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger made a heartfelt apology to fans Thursday.
The Steelers quarterback vowed that he won't disappoint them if given another chance.
"Every day I bust my butt to be the best quarterback in the NFL for these fans and for the Steelers, but I'm going to work even harder to be the best off the field, to be the best role model and best community leader — whatever I can be off the field," Roethlisberger said in an interview with WTAE that aired yesterday. "I owe that to the fans because I have made a lot of mistakes. From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry if I have ever even wronged one fan. I'm going to do everything in my power to never let it happen again."
A chastened Roethlisberger spoke extensively for the first time since a 20-year-old college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in a nightclub bathroom March 5 in Milledgeville, Ga. KDKA and WTAE aired parts of their one-on-one interviews yesterday. KDKA, a business partner of the Steelers, conducted two sit-down interviews with Roethlisberger this week. It will broadcast more of what he said today.
Roethlisberger told WTAE that he has been "champing at the bit" to tell his side of what happened during a booze-fueled birthday bar tour that made him the poster boy for the arrogant, self-indulged sports star. While charges were never filed against Roethlisberger, 28, the details that emerged from the incident led to a conditional suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on April 20.
Roethlisberger said his lawyers advised him not to talk about what happened because he has a civil lawsuit pending in Reno, Nev. Roethlisberger did tell KDKA that there is a history of alcohol abuse in his biological mother's family. (She died when he was 8, and his father, Ken, remarried.) But, he told both stations, he does not have a problem with alcohol.
"I can honestly say that, no, it's not an issue because my dad was (always) adamant about it not being in the house," he told KDKA. "Moving forward, you have to make sure you make right decisions, and that right decision is going to have to be something that I make when the situation presents itself. You can't stop living, but you've got to live smart."
Roethlisberger, who has been accused of sexual assault twice since July, said he has made bad decisions in the past for several reasons. Among them: He was not ready for the fame and fortune he acquired at such a young age. Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, also said that he let the larger-than-life "Big Ben" persona, conceived by his on-the-field exploits, take over his life.
That, he said, led to his losing touch with core values such as the importance of religion, family and friends and simple human decency.
"I didn't really see it, but looking back on it now it's like the TobyMac song that says, 'I don't want to gain the whole world and lose my soul,' " Roethlisberger told KDKA. "I was gaining everything, but I was losing who I was and who I was raised to be."
He said a recent talk with his father impressed upon him just how far he had strayed in recent years.
"He looked at me, and we both kind of broke down. And he said, 'It's good to have my son back,'" Roethlisberger told KDKA. "That killed me. It was emotional. It feels good to be back to who I am and the son I'm proud to be with them."
The interviews are a small step in Roethlisberger's attempt to rehabilitate his battered image — and win back fans he alienated with his boorish behavior. He acknowledged as much yesterday.
"I've got a long way to go to make up for those kids and the parents that don't want them to idolize me now. I'm committed to doing that," Roethlisberger told KDKA. "Let the actions speak, and give me the chance to show that you'll see a new Ben."
Big Ben sound bites
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave one-on-one interviews to KDKA Channel 2 and WTAE Channel 4, and segments from both aired Thursday. Here are some quotes from those interviews:
WTAE Channel 4
On what he has to say to Steelers fans:
"I've wanted to apologize to them for so many things: for being immature, for being dumb, for being young, not knowing any better, for getting caught up with everything that was thrown my way."
On fans that will boo him when he returns to the field:
"I know there's going to be people who aren't happy with me, and I owe those people apologies as much as I do anybody else. I've got to just give it my all when I'm out there playing and hope that people understand that I've made a lot of mistakes and I'm sorry for them. The next chapter in my life is what I'm excited about — and I hope fans are, my teammates are, my family."
On his admission that he hasn't always been the best teammate:
"To those guys I've reached out to ... (I) tried to wipe the slate clean and apologize to them and let them know that I got caught up and I'm sorry and I will be better. Just like I've told the fans and everybody, I will be better. I'll be a better teammate. I'll be a better friend."
KDKA Channel 2
On whether he considered changing his jersey number to symbolize being a new player:
"That got brought up, and I thought about it for about five seconds and said, 'No way.' I wear it because that's me, that's who I am. I love who I am on the football field. I think most fans would agree. I think they like that. That's not the person that needs to change. It's the person off the field, and I don't wear the number off the field."
On reaching out to former coach Bill Cowher:
"I never really knew how he felt about me, and I don't if he knew how I felt about him, because the short time we were together, he was more of a veteran coach (and) I was more of the rookie guy. Talking to him, I would call it a friendship now. He's invited me down to come spend a weekend with him."
On Terry Bradshaw's scathing remarks following the incident in Milledgeville, Ga.:
"A lot of people criticize me. That's their right, and I hold no ill feelings towards Terry Bradshaw. He is the Steelers quarterback of all time. If there was ever anything between us, I don't know where it came from, but I would apologize."