Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger Opens Up on Past Alcohol, Pornography Addictions


Getty Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2019.

This past Saturday Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was interviewed one-on-one at a virtual conference for Christian men and spoke at length about his faith, as well as his past struggles with off-the-field addiction issues.

The interview was conducted by Tunch Ilkin, a former Steelers offensive tackle and one of the ManUp Pittsburgh conference’s co-hosts. Ilkin opened the discussion by asking Big Ben about his elbow.

Roethlisberger said his elbow “feels awesome” and “I’m ahead of schedule and everything, so I’m excited, and most importantly, throwing without pain.”

But then the conversation turned to faith and Roethlisberger’s relationship with God.

Roethlisberger: ‘Now I try to use my platform for Him’

Talking about the platform available to him as the quarterback of the Steelers, Roethlisberger said: “It’s humbling. I don’t know if I’ve always understood it or used it the way I’ve wanted to. Early in your career especially, which is easy to do when you get success early, you want to use your platform for you—to benefit you. How can I be the best?”

But the longtime quarterback says he has changed his approach.

“Now I try to use my platform for Him, for my family, to show people that I can be a good husband, a good father, a good Christian,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s where I’m at now. I want to give all of the glory to Him because that’s where it comes from. Every single thing I have and been blessed with—on the football field, off the football field—is because of Him. It’s nothing to do with me. I put the work in, but He’s the one that motivates me, He’s the one that has given me the ability.”

Roethlisberger says his wife Ashley helped him get to where he wanted to be spiritually. He also told Ilkin that he chose to get baptized three years ago, reaffirming his childhood baptism.

“I wanted to have a closer walk, a better relationship with Jesus, with my wife, with my kids, with my family, to become a better person,” Roethlisberger said, before adding: “Jesus was the one who brought me back to Him. I am so thankful for it because I feel like I am a better Christian, a better husband, and a better father today because of His forgiveness of me.”

Roethlisberger’s ‘message to all the men who are watching’

But he admitted that he has made more than his share of mistakes, saying:

“People don’t realize all the time that us athletes, we’re human. We sin like everyone else. I am no different. We make mistakes. We get addicted to things. We sin. We’re human. And I think sometimes we get put on this pedestal where we can’t make mistakes. We do. I’ve fallen as short as anybody. 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.”

Yet he emphasized that it is possible to overcome your faults and get out of the cycle you’re in, thanks to the grace of God.

“My message to all the men who are watching this is that we all fall short,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what happens. But it’s okay. You can get back into the good graces, and all it takes is to ask. And how easy is it for us to use our words? It’s not like we have to go do a bunch of things…. All we have to do it ask. If we ask for forgiveness, He is going to say okay. How lucky are we?”

The ManUp Pittsburgh Conference

Roethlisberger’s talk was part of the eighth annual ManUp Pittsburgh conference, which is hosted by Urban Impact in connection with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

In a typical year ManUp Pittsburgh attracts an in-person audience of approximately 1,500 people. This year the conference was held virtually and lasted 90 minutes.

Roethlisberger was part of a featured speakers program that also included Tomlin and former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

Roethlisberger has twice been accused of sexual assault, both times early in his NFL career, which began in 2004. In 2010 he was suspended for part of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

Roethlisberger has been married since 2011 and has three children with his wife Ashley.

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