He's Big Ben once more.
Ben Roethlisberger proves yet again Americans will forgive anything if you win games. And Roethlisberger is back in good graces just three months after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Georgia prosecutors didn't file charges over an alleged March 2010 sexual assault based on a Georgia college student's claim of Roethlisberger forcing her to have sex in a bar bathroom. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't need a courtroom to impart punishment, though. Not after similar sexual misconduct allegations were brought against Roethlisberger in a 2008 Lake Tahoe incident that also didn't bring legal charges.
The Pittsburgh Steelers shopped the passer around the league without takers. Steelers legendary quarterback Terry Bradshaw said the team should have "dumped" Roethlisberger while unsuccessfully urging Goodell not to reduce the quarterback's suspension from six games. The corporate sponsor of "Big Ben's Beef Jerky" ended its deal. The TV show "South Park" spoofed him in its "Sexual Healing" episode.
The two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback was Public Enemy No. 2 behind Philadelphia counterpart Michael Vick. Now, Roethlisberger is once more golden as Pittsburgh faces the New York Jets in Sunday's AFC Championship.
"The great thing is that's so far long ago I forgot all about it," Roethlisberger said on a national conference call.
Regrets? Doesn't appear so by Roethlisberger. Being one game away from seeking his third Super Bowl ring means never having to say he's sorry. Did the suspension and criminal investigation make Roethlisberger more mature?
"When it comes to being a person, I try to be the person my parents raised me to be," he said.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin tempers criticism of Roethlisberger by saying, "Adversity is as much of the game of football as blocking and tackling."
Roethlisberger knows he won't be idolized like Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and New England's Tom Brady, who have one and three Super Bowl titles respectively. That Roethlisberger is fourth in career winning percentage (.704) and eighth in NFL career passer rating (92.5) doesn't erase a bad boy image first fueled by a near-fatal 2006 motorcycle crash.
"It's OK for me because I know I'm never going to win a league MVP," Roethlisberger said. "I'll never win a league passing title. I just try to win championships."
And that's the bottom line. Roethlisberger is the only passer on the remaining four NFL teams with Super Bowl experience, much less two rings. A 9-2 career playoff record provides understanding over handling the big stage.
"It helps with being familiar with the atmosphere, with the intensity of the game, knowing that every play matters, every play counts, every mistake magnifies," he said. "Every week in the playoffs it picks up a little more. I didn't realize that at first. Now I see that."
If only Roethlisberger could say the same about his personal life.
Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more at TheRickSniderReport.com and on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.