NEW YORK -- Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher said it was hard to get through to Ben Roethlisberger after the quarterback had so much success early in his career.
Yet Cowher believes the sexual assault investigation that led to Roethlisberger's six-game suspension was a "slap in the face" that has led to some much-needed maturity.
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Cowher described how Roethlisberger used to respond to advice about his off-field behavior. " 'But we're winning games. We're winning championships,' " Cowher recounted. " 'What do you mean? Isn't that what we're here to do?' "
"Yeah, but there's more to it than that," Cowher said.
"It's the whole body of work. It's you as a person, what kind of legacy you want to leave. I really think he understands that now."
Roethlisberger was not charged after a Georgia college student accused him of sexual assault in March, but commissioner Roger Goodell still suspended him for the first six games of the season, citing a "pattern of behavior" embarrassing to the NFL.
Roethlisberger has said Cowher was one of the people he turned to for advice as he tried to get his life back on track, and that the two are now closer than ever before.
"I think Ben has had a chance to reflect a lot. I think he's a good person. While it's unfortunate, I think it may be an eye-opener to him, kind of a slap in the face," Cowher said.
Before the Georgia case, there were earlier incidents, too. Roethlisberger was badly injured in a motorcycle accident while riding without a helmet or a permit after his first Super Bowl victory in 2006. He also is being sued by a woman who says he raped her in '08 at a Lake Tahoe hotel-casino. Roethlisberger denies the accusation and was not charged.
"There's no question as a player he's always been a great player," Cowher said. "But there's a lot more to this professionally than that. It's how you carry yourself off the field. I think he realizes that now."