We Are Fam-i-ly, Steelers Style

Ben Roethlisberger (AP photo)

Mike Prisuta uncovers one key reason behind Ben Roethlisberger's triumphant tale of redemption this season: his football family.

When the preseason ended, Ben Roethlisberger broke down in the locker room just prior to leaving his teammates and beginning his NFL-mandated suspension.

When the regular season ended, Roethlisberger was on a sideline in Cleveland, celebrating a 12-4 record and an AFC North Division championship with the same teammates he had been forced to temporarily abandon.

How'd they get from there to here?

"The reason that probably happened is this is family," Roethlisberger said. "You've always heard me say that, this is family and these guys are family to me. So to have to leave your family for a while is an emotional thing. But to come back to your family, it should be an easy thing to do. It's not like you're coming back to total strangers, ‘How do I fit in?' I'm coming back to family, guys I know. To me that was the easy part.

"I don't know if I expected the worst, but when I came back it was a lot better, easier than I anticipated. I think a lot of it has to do with these guys. Literally, when I walked in the building that first day back every single person gave me a hug.

"And we weren't 0-4, we were 3-1."

Roethlisberger maintained the reaction would have been the same had the Steelers been 0-4 upon his return.

"I think it would have been like, ‘Oh, good, we're glad you're back,'" he said. "But being 3-1 it was like, "You know what? We're just so glad you're back, to have our brother back.' I think they really made it easy for me."

A large part of that involved Roethlisberger's teammates harboring zero resentment toward the quarterback who had left them in such a bind in the first place. It's not as if he missed four games because of a knee injury.

Although he's never been charged with a crime, Roethlisberger's teammates might still have easily held against him his sudden unavailability just for putting himself in a position to contribute to what Mike Tomlin has referred to as adversity "created by us." But that didn't happen.

"I never heard one thing, never did," Roethlisberger said. "I never sensed it, either.

"That's the family side, it really is. We've gotten so much closer. I've gotten closer to a lot of these guys. I've always been close to my linemen and some of the offensive guys. But defensive linemen, young guys, everybody, I just feel like we've all gotten a lot closer these last couple of years."

Close enough that Roethlisberger was supported when he might have been judged.

"We knew it was out of our hands, really," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We didn't know how long the suspension was going to be, what the suspension was going to be; all that was kind of Roger (Goodell)'s deal.

"It was like, ‘We'll be fine, we'll win some games. You just do what you gotta do to get ready so when you come back we can hit this ground running.'"

Asked if there was any resentment, Troy Polamalu said, "No, nobody ever had that for him."

So there you have it.

How'd they get from there to here?

Because of who they are and what they are -- a team.

"Honestly, I don't think people really dug that deep into thinking about any resentment," Polamalu added. "We just saw it as what it was and we just had to deal with it.

"I think if we had resentment we may not have been as successful as we were without him."

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