It's safe to say Ben Roethlisberger needs no additional motivation going into the 2020 season, but he has it, nonetheless. The 38-year-old is readying to return to the field after missing 14 games in 2019 due to an elbow injury that required surgery to repair, marking the first time he's been sidelined for more than four regular season games in his 16-year NFL career. It's new territory for Roethlisberger when also factoring in the variable of Father Time, but the two-time Super Bowl champion is back to throwing with no limitations and now readily admits his 2019 injury wasn't the only battle he's faced recently.
Speaking to Tunch Ilkin -- a former Steeler and co-host of the annual "ManUp Pittsburgh" event -- Roethlisberger made it clear he's fought with addiction as well.
"It's not always easy," he said, via ESPN. "People don't realize all the time that us athletes, we're human. We sin like everybody else [and] I am no different. We make mistakes.
"We get addicted to things. We sin. We're human. I think sometimes we get put on this pedestal where we can't make mistakes. 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. But you have to dedicate yourself and understand that you can get out of it because of the grace of God and him saying, 'Listen, you're good enough for me the way you are. You don't have to be perfect.'"
Roethlisberger hasn't led a headline-free career, but isn't ashamed to admit he was a different person in his youth.
Now married with three children, his focus and maturity are both a far cry from 2010, when he was accused of sexual assault on two separate occasions and ultimately suspended four games to start the season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. As he's worked to better himself over the last few years, labeling the early portion of his career off-the-field as "selfish," Roethlisberger notes just how humbling the 2019 injury truly was.
"Last year, we went through a crazy offseason," he said. "All I thought about was getting back on the football field, and I was like, 'God, you're going to give me all this redemption. I'm going to go out there, I'm going to prove everybody wrong, I'm going to win a Super Bowl, and we're going to give you all the glory, and this is it. This is my comeback year.' And the second game, I tear my elbow. That was God being like, 'Hold on, it's not your plan of coming back. It's got to be my plan.'
"So I had to pump the brakes. 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, five, six, seven, 10 years ago."
The Steelers are looking forward to his return in 2020, and he sounds more ready than he's ever been.