There was talk the Steelers would trade him. There was talk the fans had disowned him and that he’d never hear the cheers again at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
But fans are fickle. Like an angry girlfriend, there’s a chance they will forgive if you behave well and if you perform when required.
In his first game back as the starting QB of the Steelers after a Four-game, NFL-imposed suspension for getting in trouble with police during the off-season, Ben Roethlisberger, did hear the cheers when he trotted onto the field, and he did deliver.
Big Ben put aside the fact that he was accused and investigated (but never charged) from earlier this year in a sexual assault in a college bar in Georgia, put aside the media attention that attracted, and the fan backlash in Pittsburgh, and he did on the football field what he does best. He threw three touchdown passes, and led the Steelers to a 28-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Saying he got “a bit emotional for a moment” as he heard the cheers, Roethlisberger showed some initial rust and threw an early interception, but bounced back with big plays late in the third quarter when the Steelers really needed it.
Leading 7-3 and stuck deep in his own end, he fired off a 50-yard completion to Mike Wallace and then a 36-yarder to Heath Miller to get his team out of trouble, and moments later, tossed a TD pass to Hines Ward. It was the kind poise and leadership the Steelers have enjoyed from Big Ben over the last few seasons en route to two Super Bowl victories with him at the helm.
Roethlisberger completed 16 of 27 passes for 257 yards in this game, as the Steelers improved to 4 and 1 and moved into first place in the AFC North.
As for the once-enraged fans who flooded talk radio shows with angry calls about Roethlisberger back in March, they have been happy with their team’s 3-1 start in his absence, but seemed very glad he’s back. Although there were a dozen or so sign-carrying protestors outside the stadium, they were easily drowned out by the repeated ovations from the more than 65-thousand on hand inside.
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