Anyone who watched him play 18 seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback knows how to answer the question: How good was Ben Roethlisberger in his prime? In fact, the athlete was so admired during his NFL career that he believes, “God used me a little bit while I played, he set this whole platform” through which Roethlisberger could use that fame to bring people closer to their faith.
However, during that time, Roethlisberger told the “Dad Tired” podcast, “I may not have answered the calling as much as I probably should have, or he wanted me to while I played.” Still, despite what he views as this shortcoming, the retired QB isn’t defeated. Rather, he shared, “It doesn’t mean that I’m done.” Instead, it simply means that his faith and platform are ready to evolve and grow as he enters this new, post-football stage of life.
How It Started
For as long as he can remember, Roethlisberger said, “I always knew God. I grew up in the church, and every Sunday it was going to church.” Things changed when he went to college and didn’t have his parents driving him to church every week. Suddenly, he had to make a choice to follow his faith.
“To me, there’s the two paths: Either you’re seeking it and you’re actively trying to get a relationship with God, or you’re just coasting,” Ben Roethlisberger mused. “But I don’t think I had a relationship with Jesus.” As a result, the pro athlete worries that his time in the NFL wasn’t a period in his life in which he was closest to God.
Now, if you ask, “How many Super Bowls did Ben Roethlisberger play in,” that elicits an easy answer: three. But if you ask how many times he worked on his faith during his professional football career, the athlete has a harder time providing a concrete response. Looking back on that time, he admitted: “I just feel like I could have done more … to do those things to make me better as a person, husband, father.
“I was so focused on football, which you have to be when you’re doing what I do, or what I did … but just my relationship, I wish I had a stronger relationship with [Jesus] the whole time I played, ’cause I feel like I maybe could have affected more people early on.”
What kept him back from doing that, he believes, is the fact that “I didn’t actively look for a new church … [while] I went to chapel with the team, I did some stuff, I wasn’t doing Bible studies, I wasn’t doing things on my own, reading the Bible. So I would say I was a coasting Christian. I was just sitting there.” And that’s a fact he’s working to change now that the NFL is in his rearview mirror.
How It’s Going
While faith wasn’t his prime focus on the football field, Roethlisberger has been able to apply lessons of the game to his current faith journey. He explained, “My college coach always said, ‘You either improve or you deteriorate. You never stay the same in whatever you do.’”
Considering that message, he recognizes that while he was in the NFL, “I was probably slowly going down as a Christian because I wasn’t actively working on my relationship.” Luckily, he found a different relationship when he met his future wife, Ashley Harlan. As they progressed from friendship to dating, marriage, and parenthood, he said their partnership motivated him “to really figure out who I was,” and, together, they’ve worked to make faith a priority for their entire family.
Today, Roethlisberger said, “I’m definitely on the upslope” with his faith and religious commitment. Finding a church to call home and launching the Roethlisberger Family Foundation in order to bring families closer to each other and to God, the athlete knows he’s finally ready to use his platform to share his own journey.