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Roethlisberger endures challenging ride to Super Bowl XLV

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger would like us to believe that there isn't anything more satisfying about this Super Bowl than the previous two in which he played.

"A Super Bowl's a Super Bowl," he said. "You can sit there and say (that about) your first one or your 10th one. Any player is just happy to get there and try and win one."

There might be some truth to that. Still, it is hard to believe that this, an NFL record-tying eighth Super Bowl in the Pittsburgh Steelers' history, isn't at least a little more special to Roethlisberger and his teammates.

Especially to Roethlisberger.

After all, he began this journey as a spectator for the first four games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. He would battle through a fractured foot and a broken nose that would require surgery. He would lose both of his starting offensive tackles to season-ending injuries.

But that wasn't all. Roethlisberger also would need to make a third-and-19 conversion while leading the Steelers back from a 21-7 halftime deficit to win their divisional playoff game against Baltimore. Then, on Sunday night, he would watch as a 24-0 lead over the New York Jets nearly vanished before he and the Steelers would recover and hang on for a 24-19 victory in the AFC Championship Game.

Just for good measure, Roethlisberger would complete much of the final three hours of the ride to Super Bowl XLV by having to fight through yet another injury -- this one caused by taking "either a knee or a helmet to the thigh" -- and losing standout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey to an ankle injury. On top of that was a statistically forgettable performance that saw him throw two interceptions, get sacked twice (once for a safety), and finish with a miserable passer rating of 35.5.

By now, Roethlisberger has become so used to he and the Steelers doing things the hard way that it seems normal to him.

"That's us, that's the Pittsburgh Steelers," he said. "It's not always pretty, but somehow we find a way to get it done."

How?

"We have a lot of tenacity," Roethlisberger said. "We have a don't-quit attitude and mentality. And we have a belief in each other. We're a family. We stay close, no matter what. When things go bad on offense, the defense is picking us up. If things go bad on special teams, the offense and defense are picking them up.

"And everybody is just always there for each other. There's never finger pointing."

Not now. Back in April, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hit Roethlisberger with a six-game suspension after he was accused of, but never charged with, sexually assaulting a 20-year-old female college student in Georgia, it seemed a whole lot of fingers were pointed at Roethlisberger. At the very least, he was seen as someone whose poor judgment not only had caused him a great deal of personal embarrassment (if not his career with the Steelers) but also hurt his team's chances for success.

The reduction of the suspension to four games didn't do a whole lot to change that perspective.

However, the Steelers did manage to go 3-1 with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch filling in for Roethlisberger. And they managed to win their division with a 12-4 record despite season-ending injuries to starting offensive tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks, a hamstring injury that took away defensive end Brett Keisel for six weeks, and a torn pectoral muscle that is still sidelining defensive end Aaron Smith.

True, the Steelers have traveled a longer road to the Super Bowl, needing to win three road playoff games as a sixth seed after the 2005 season. Yet, even that doesn't seem to compare to the challenges they've faced since the offseason.

"We utilized everybody on the 53-man roster to get to this point," veteran wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We're just a bunch of resilient guys. Some people gave us a chance, some people didn't. But the guys in this locker room stayed together and believed, and here we are, going to the Super Bowl."

Added Roethlisberger, "I'm just so proud of the way guys stepped up and filled in. That's what the Pittsburgh Steelers do."

That's also a reason to think that this Super Bowl is a little more special than the others in which he has played.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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