Football is life to many of the men who suit up each week to play the game. It’s a routine they’ve come to love and cherish. It’s a journey that starts out with the prodding of pee-wee league coaches, crazed parents, and mud tracked through living rooms and kitchens. It crescendos with Friday night lights and pep rallies that last until dawn. College recruits reinforce the dream and soon, if the football gods smile, a star is born.
Ben Roethlisberger has lived that life. He has experienced the highs and heart wrenching lows of life in the NFL. He has delivered the ultimate prize to the denizens of The Steel City. Twice in his life, Roethlisberger has raised the Lombardi over his head for the Black and Gold. Roethlisberger has set records and played in three Pro Bowls. The awards he’s won are astounding. He is truly an elite quarterback that has been ignored by the media.
But beyond the glamour, fame, and lifestyle of the NFL, there’s a world that many players refuse to think about. Some tend to put off the inevitable until their performance harms the team or — which many times is the case — they succumb to injury. Giving up a lifelong passion can be hard. But when the game starts to affect life beyond the field, it’s time to make a decision.
The Steelers have been able to count on Big Ben for 11 years. That’s a long time for a modern era quarterback. Defensive linemen are huge and ferocious beasts, waiting for a chance to level an unsuspecting signal-caller. Roethlisberger is a hulk of a man. Standing well over six feet and weighing 241 pounds, he’s hard to bring down. That means he’ll take more punishment from defenders.
In Roethlisberger, the Steelers have the equivalent of Ram-Man. The Masters of the Universe character probably would have been afraid to take on Big Ben. Either way, the collision probably wouldn’t compare to what Roethlisberger felt in Sunday’s Game against the Seahawks.
According to a report by ESPN, Roethlisberger suffered a traumatic ocular migraine, after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Michael Bennett. The hit resulted in a penalty that kept the Steelers’ drive going. Roethlisberger stayed in the game. Everyone knows that leaving your team in a tight spot is for wimps. Right? Even when your health is at stake, you gut it out.
After helping the Steelers draw closer to the Hawks, Roethlisberger stood on the sideline and had to make a decision. His peripheral vision was blurry.
“I have played through many injuries but the brain is not an injury you want to play with,” Roethlisberger explained, on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan. “I didn’t feel right. It doesn’t make you less of a man or a football player to come out of the game. It was a big hit, got the wind knocked out of me, and I was on the ground. I felt okay, just felt like it was a big hit.”
Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier is also in concussion protocol. But the medical team diagnosed him immediately.
“Right now, both guys are in protocol and will remain in protocol, even if they feel better,” Mike Tomlin insisted, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We will do what we always do — we will be diligent with our care and lean on the advice of our medical team.”
The NFL is in the process of investigating why the spotter and the officials didn’t check Big Ben, when he was slow to get up. He had to be helped by teammates. Roethlisberger is beginning to think about life after football.
“When you’re done, you want to be a husband or father. And if I have these brain injuries, it’s not worth it.”
Many times players will fight through serious injuries to remain tough and accountable to their teammates. That’s not being a man, that’s gambling with the future. Thanks to the actions of Ben Roethlisberger, maybe others will begin to speak up.
[Photo by Otto Gruele Jr./Getty Images]