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Pittsburgh Steelers QB Wants to Be a Better Christian Than Athlete

‘It’s cool to be a Christian’

Roethlisberger describes being humbled by last year’s injury—and grateful it occurred after his faith had been renewed. During the second game of the 2019 campaign, the QB who’d been eager for gridiron redemption tore his elbow and had to sit out the rest of the season.

“That was God being like, ‘Hold on, it’s not your plan of coming back. It’s got to be my plan,’” he says. “I’m so thankful that this injury happened during my walk that I’m in now. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to handle it a few years ago.”

Early in his career, Roethlisberger admits he wanted to use his platform for himself. Now, although he says he sometimes catches himself being selfish, he tries to use his platform for Jesus and “give all the glory to him.”

Being a Christian seems more acceptable for pro athletes these days, says Roethlisberger, who shares the message that faith and football aren’t mutually exclusive. “I think now more than ever it’s cool to be a Christian. It’s OK, especially for professional athletes,” he says. “I [can] be a really good athlete and a Christian. It’s not one or the other. You can do both. I want that to be known, especially to all you young men out there. It’s cool to be a Christian and be an athlete.”

The Steelers great says he pushes himself daily to grow spiritually, and that starts with God’s Word. When asked to share some favorite Bible verses, Roethlisberger mentioned the entire book of James—and specifically chapter 1, verses 12 and 19. The QB confesses that he’s a “horrible memorizer” but says daily devotions give him strength.

Conference Builds Godly Men

The ManUp Pittsburgh conference, sponsored by Urban Impact, typically attracts more than 1,500 men from the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event had to move online and was condensed. It’s free to watch after registering with CrowdCast.

According to its website, “ManUp encourages and teaches men to be godly leaders for their families and raises awareness of the devastating impact of fatherlessness among youth.” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who grew up without a father, partners with ManUp’s founder, the Rev. Ed Glover, for the annual conferences. Glover also founded Global Impact USA.

Tunch Ilkin, who interviewed Roethlisberger on Saturday, is now a Steelers broadcaster as well as a men’s ministry pastor. While speaking to Big Ben, Ilkin described how he converted from Islam to Christianity, largely thanks to the influence of his teammates. When Ilkin joined the Steelers in the early ’80s, “I met a bunch of guys that loved Jesus, loved each other, and loved me, and I was so attracted to them,” he says. “They all influenced me, and I wanted to meet Jesus.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 28 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.