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Pittsburgh Steelers QB Wants to Be a Better Christian Than Athlete

During Saturday’s eighth annual ManUp Pittsburgh conference, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger described how Jesus has restored his faith and renewed his life’s purpose.

The NFL veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion, speaking to conference co-host Tunch Ilkin, says these days he’s “trying to be a better Christian than I am athlete and football player.”

Roethlisberger, nicknamed Big Ben, has been recovering from elbow surgery ahead of his 17th NFL season. The 38-year-old quarterback, who made headlines earlier in his career for questionable off-field behavior, credits Jesus and his wife, a strong Christian, for helping rekindle his faith.

Big Ben: ‘I’ve fallen as short as anybody’

Though he was raised in a Christian home and gave his life to Christ in middle school, Roethlisberger admits he didn’t retain that commitment during college. “It wasn’t like I stopped believing,” he says, “but you’re not sharpening your skills.” Experiencing instant fame contributed to the spiritual backsliding, says the first-round draft pick.

In 2010, Roethlisberger faced two separate sexual assault accusations. Though he wasn’t charged, the NFL suspended him for four games, and his reputation took a hit.

Fans tend to put pro athletes on a pedestal and forget they’re human, says the QB. “We sin like everybody else, [and] I am no different. We make mistakes. We get addicted to things. … I’ve fallen as short as anybody.”

Roethlisberger adds, “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. 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.’”

QB Finds Joy in Walking With Jesus

Faith became a priority again for Roethlisberger after his 2011 marriage to Ashley Harlan, his “best friend.” The couple now have three young children, and Roethlisberger says he’s had to remind himself to keep God first, followed by his wife and then his kids. Children can easily become the center of your universe, he notes, but kids need to know that their parents’ marital relationship comes first. “I want my kids to squirm in the kitchen because I’m kissing their mom,” he says with a smile.

Although Roethlisberger was baptized as a baby, he decided to get re-baptized three years ago. “I felt like I needed to do that,” he says. “I wanted to have a closer walk, a better relationship with Jesus…become a better person.” Rededicating his life to Christ as an adult, Roethlisberger says, has given him joy, happiness, and “truly a new life.”

The athlete ultimately credits his faith comeback to Jesus: “Jesus is the One who brought me back to him, and I’m so thankful for it, because I feel I’m a better Christian, a better husband, and a better father today because of his forgiveness of me.”

To all the men listening to the conference, Roethlisberger wanted to emphasize that “we fall short” and all it takes to get back into God’s good graces “is an ask” for forgiveness.

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.