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There’s not much pomp to the slumping Pittsburgh Steelers these days, but there was circumstance to star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completing an educational mission eight years ago.

Unlike game-winning drives late in NFL games, when time is of the essence, Roethlisberger took eight years to cross the goal line at the end of this particular drive.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are struggling at the wrong time

The wheels have fallen off the Pittsburgh Steelers in abrupt fashion this month. Beating the Baltimore Ravens, 19-14, in a rare Wednesday NFL game on Dec. 2, 2020, improved the Steelers’ record to 11-0 to take command of the AFC North. Three games later, the Steelers are 11-3 and barely holding off the Cleveland Browns (10-4).  

Wrapped around their loss to the surging Buffalo Bills were setbacks to the Washington Football Team (6-8) and the Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1).

The Steelers have forgotten how to run the ball. Even more distressing is the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s performance has fallen off. Big Ben has completed just 58.1% of his attempts with five touchdowns and four interceptions in the three losses. He had been picked just six times in his first 11 games.

Ben Roethlisberger attended Miami of Ohio

Ben Roethlisberger came to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004 as part of an impressive draft class of first-round quarterbacks including Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. The three have accounted for more than 180,000 passing yards – that’s 102 miles — as pros.

Roethlisberger was a high school star in Findlay and stayed in-state to play collegiately at Miami of Ohio in the Mid-American Conference. He red-shirted as a true freshman behind Mike Bath, a three-year starter. Bath finished his career with 6,524 yards and 49 touchdown passes. That proved to be just a warmup for the Roethlisberger era.

Roethlisberger took over as the starter in 2001 and opened with two consecutive 3,000-yard seasons. His redshirt junior season in 2003 was even better as the 6-foot-5 right-hander compiled 4,486 yards and 37 TDs.

With career numbers of 10,829 yards, 80 touchdowns, and just 23 interceptions, Roethlisberger gave up his final season of eligibility and declared for the 2004 NFL draft.

Ben Roethlisberger completed his college degree

Three years as a starter and four years on the football team doesn’t leave a player with much spare time, but Roethlisberger stayed on track with his studies. Had the spring semester in 2004 not been consumed with travel and workouts ahead of the NFL draft, he probably could have amassed enough credits to graduate on time. Instead, he left Miami of Ohio four classes short of his degree.

Roethlisberger became an immediate NFL star, winning all 13 of his regular-season starts as a rookie. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2007 and has won two Super Bowls in a career that will end in enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But Roethlisberger never forgot about his college degree. Fall semesters were consumed by his job, but Roethlisberger found time to pick up classes in a few spring semesters when the Steelers didn’t make the playoffs or exited early. In May 2012, he completed his undergraduate degree in education and walked the stage at the age of 30, fulfilling a promise to his parents.

Roethlisberger said he had his children in mind as added motivation.

“How could I tell my children one day how important an education is, if I didn’t have one?” Roethlisberger said at the time. “This is pretty special to me. I’m proud to not just say I’m an alum. Now, I’m a graduate.”

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