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Steelers QB Roethlisberger aims career toward ‘PFJ’

EDITORS’ NOTE: Art Stricklin, an award-winning Christian journalist and regular contributor to Baptist Press, has been reporting from the site of Super Bowl XXXIX with exclusive coverage on the spiritual side of the Super Bowl. This is his final story from the week in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed a magical season in 2004, going from third-string signal caller to NFL Rookie of the Year by leading his team to 15 straight wins and within one victory of the Super Bowl.

But what wasn’t as well known is how the young player used his newfound pro football platform to share his faith in Jesus Christ.

“Sometimes you’re handed an opportunity to speak that you don’t even know you’re going to have. Only God could have brought me from third team as a rookie to a starter and Rookie of the Year,” he said.

While Roethlisberger was sitting in the Alltel Stadium stands Sunday afternoon watching as New England and Philadelphia face off in Super Bowl XXXIX, he said he hopes his NFL career will help point people to what’s important in his life.

“You don’t have to listen to what I have to say, but I will always have the opportunity to glorify God in all that I do,” he said in a pre-Super Bowl interview.

One unique opportunity for Roethlisberger came midway through the season when he had the Steelers on a winning streak after taking over due to injuries to the quarterbacks ahead of him. Before a game, he wrote the initials on his armbands, “PFJ,” for Playing For Jesus.

The NFL promptly fined the rookie an undisclosed amount for violating the league’s uniform dress policy, but Roethlisberger said that wouldn’t stop his witness.

“I had to be a little more careful after that, but I’m always going to express my faith. Guys express all kinds of products here in the league, so I’m going to keep expressing my faith,” he said about the previously little-known incident.

Roethlisberger credits much of his spiritual maturity to his parents who involved him in faith and regular church attendance at an early age and to the college ministries he was involved in the Mid-American Conference.

He said being drafted by the Steelers with a large number of veteran, faith-filled players also was a blessing.

“The great thing about having veteran players is they can put their arms around you and, with the number of Christians we had on the Steelers, the opportunity was presented to me to learn and mature.”

After this season’s sensational campaign, the pressure will be on the Steelers and their young quarterback to repeat or improve on their performance. No longer an unknown rookie, Roethlisberger said he realizes the heat will be on him on and off the field next season.

“It’s not tough be grounded in your faith, when the Lord is helping you. He has brought me through some tough times and I know His hand on me won’t slip.”

While the teams for the 2006 Super Bowl XL in Detroit next year won’t be determined for almost another 12 months, Roethlisberger is hoping to be PFJ for a long time to come.


Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, whose spiritual transformation was profiled in Baptist Press during last year’s Super Bowl, fell short of a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame during Saturday’s voting. He was one of six finalists, but didn’t get the 80 percent of the votes from the 39-member committee from the Pro Football Writers Association.

Irvin declined to speak after his exclusion, but earlier said the football honor would have meant a lot to him.

“I want to be in the Hall of Fame so bad I can taste it, because God has done so much in my life.”

He is a member of a local Dallas church and has formed an accountability group with former Dallas players Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith and their pastor T.D. Jakes.


The Southern Baptist-led Convoy of Hope held Saturday afternoon at Edgewood Park in Jacksonville was a big success, attracting 20,000 interested and needy participants and thousands of local Baptist volunteers.

The event was profiled extensively by local Jacksonville TV stations and was held under sunny skies and mild temperatures.

“The event was so successful and we had so many volunteers, we actually started sending them home early,” said local coordinator David Garrett of the Jacksonville Baptist Association. “That’s certainly a good problem to have and one we’re very grateful for.”

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  • Art Stricklin