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Steelers QB Roethlisberger desires to be 'Pittsburgh guy'

| Sunday, July 26, 2015, 12:07 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drops back to pass during training camp Sunday, July 26, 2015, at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger goes through drills during training camp Sunday, July 26, 2015, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws during training camp Sunday, July 26, 2015 at St. Vincent in Latrobe, Pa.

When the Ravens' Haloti Ngata broke Ben Roethlisberger's nose with a chop to the face, Roethlisberger refused to come out of the game and didn't miss a play despite a severely displaced septum and blood dripping down his face.

When Roethlisberger got his bell rung in last year's playoff game against the Ravens, he missed three plays before returning to the field in a game that's outcome already had been decided.

There is a legitimate reason why Roethlisberger refuses to leave work early under virtually any circumstance. He prides himself on being a tough guy.

Or as he called it: a Pittsburgh guy.

“I want to give it all to those fans because that's what they do,” Roethlisberger told Trib Total Media on Sunday before the Steelers' first practice of training camp at St. Vincent. “If these guys are in the mines or working in the steel mills or wherever, if they break a finger, they aren't going home. I feel like I want to be the same.”

Roethlisberger paused, then said, “I always wanted to be a Pittsburgh guy — that guy.”

Roethlisberger spent the majority of his formative years in Ohio. He was raised in Cory Rawson, went to high school in Findlay, played for Ohio in the Big 33 Classic and went to college in Oxford at Miami (Ohio).

A dozen years after the Steelers used a first-round pick on Roethlisberger, he considers himself a Pittsburgher and has adopted the city as his own.

No more Ohio Ben. It is more like Pittsburgh Ben.

“I want the fans and the people of Pittsburgh to embrace me as a Pittsburgher,” Roethlisberger said. “I am not the California surfer-type. I love the city and love the people, and hopefully they see me as a blue-collar Pittsburgh guy because that's how I want to play the game.”

For Roethlisberger, it's not shtick about being a true Pittsburgher.

Before Roethlisberger signed a $108 million extension in March that will keep him as the Steelers quarterback until he's 38, he routinely said how much he wanted to stay with the Steelers, be part of the organization for life and how much he loved the city.

Some thought it was a ploy to squeeze money out of the Rooneys.

For Roethlisberger, he was speaking from the heart.

“I want to play here and nowhere else,” Roethlisberger said. “I do headshots and stuff like that, and people ask me where I am from and I say Pittsburgh. I feel like that is where I am from. I got the accent down.”

It's not just words for Roethlisberger. He has backed it up with actions.

Roethlisberger lives in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh with his wife, Ashley, and two young children. His parents moved from Ohio to the Clinton area of the city. His sister, Carlee, is community relations coordinator for the Pirates.

“This is home to me,” Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger won't talk about when he plans to step away from the game. He wants to live in the now, and when that day comes when there is no more football, he won't make a quick return to his hometown.

“We will be here. We are not going anywhere,” Roethlisberger said. “My kids say they are from Pittsburgh. They root for the Penguins and Pirates, and we are looking at schools they are going to go to. My family all lives here. My wife's family lives here, so why would we leave?”

Roethlisberger has cemented himself as the best Steelers quarterback in franchise history statistically. Now, he has another goal: to win more championships.

Roethlisberger had the best season of his career last year, tying for the NFL lead with the Saints' Drew Brees in passing yards (4,952). Roethlisberger also had career highs in starts, attempts, completions and touchdowns.

Roethlisberger has 106 regular-season wins and 10 more in the playoffs. Jim Plunkett is the only quarterback with two Super Bowl titles who isn't in the Hall of Fame.

“When I get done playing is when I think people will say, ‘Wow, I didn't realize what he had done,' ” Roethlisberger said. “That's fine. I just want that win/loss column to be special. I treat my legacy the same way when people ask me how much longer I am going to play. Do I think about stats and Hall of Fame? No, because that is thinking about the end. If I think about the future, then I am cheating about right now.

“I am giving everything I have right now. My legacy to me is there is still more to add.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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