Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fields questions during media day at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas Tuesday.
By Michael Sanserino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Less than a minute after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat down in front of dozens of microphones, lights, lenses and reporters, he grinned when he heard the soft voice of a child.
He looked down at Brayden Madden, 11, a student reporter from a nearby grade school.
"Oh, man," Roethlisberger exhaled early in his Super Bowl media day session Tuesday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium. "I could do this all day.
"How many questions do you have? Do you have enough for an hour?"
Brayden asked his question and was quickly whisked away. It was a brief respite for Roethlisberger, who then had to answer questions that were 11 months in the making.
He tried to make two major points with reporters on Tuesday: He says he is a different man than he was one year ago, and he believes that he is a better teammate.
Roethlisberger said all the right things, without saying much, in his highest-profile news conference since a February 2010 incident involving a sexual-assault allegation in Milledgeville, Ga., compromised his image and threatened his future.
He rarely strayed from a script he developed following the Steelers' American Football Conference championship game victory, emphasizing his desire to be a role model, highlighting his renewed commitment to his Christian faith and evading challenging questions.
For the most part, he declined to answer reporters' questions that he believed were "reflective," or asked him to evaluate his progress since serving a four-game suspension at the beginning of the season imposed by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell for conduct detrimental to the league. No charges were brought against him.
"It's not time to reflect because really it's about this game," he said.
Roethlisberger detailed to reporters a conversation he had with Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, now a Fox football analyst, who was critical of Roethlisberger following the Milledgeville incident. The two spoke off the record before a taped interview for an upcoming Fox broadcast.
Roethlisberger said he thought Bradshaw might have spoken "a little too soon without knowing all the facts."
"He's totally right about [that]," Bradshaw said later in the day when asked about Roethlisberger's comment. "I don't know what happened."
Bradshaw said he apologized if he said anything that hurt Roethlisberger.
"I think everything's good," Roethlisberger said.
In all, the quarterback faced more than 20 questions on his suspension, his attitude and his life post-Milledgeville.
One reporter asked if Roethlisberger believed that he was a good guy. ("I think so," he responded.)
Another asked how he wants to be remembered. (As a "God-fearing person that was loyal to his family," he said.)
If playing football is the easy part of this process, one reporter wondered, what is the hard part? ("You guys," he said with a laugh.)
Forget that 60-minute football game Sunday. Roethlisberger might have already survived his most challenging 60-minute stretch this Super Bowl week.
He arrived Tuesday at Cowboys Stadium knowing what he would say to the media, hearkening back to words his late football coach at Miami (Ohio) University, Terry Hoeppner, said: "You have a plan, you work the plan and you plan for the unexpected."
Roethlisberger said he thought through a lot of the questions he figured reporters might ask, much as politicians prep for televised debates.
He developed his plan with the help of Steelers president Art Rooney II; Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner; Steelers public relations gurus Burt Lauten and Dave Lockett; and ex-Steeler Merril Hoge.
"I think that's one of the ways I've grown up is trying to get advice on the little things like that," Roethlisberger said. "I think that's important. You can't have the approach of coming in here like, 'I'm going to do this myself.' You can, but I think you're going to fail."
Their advice: Be yourself and try to enjoy it.
Roethlisberger joked throughout his one-hour session, poking fun at Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for the brisk temperature in the mammoth stadium and blowing his nose in a sponsor's towel.
"Sorry, Gatorade," he said.
But he was emotional, too. He wiped a tear from his cheek after talking about Hoeppner, his Miami coach who died of brain cancer in 2007.
"I miss him a lot," he said.
He spoke about the game, too, and of his admiration for Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whom he called the better of the two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl.
"I think it went well, in my opinion," he said as things were wrapping up. "I don't know how all you guys think.
"I guess we'll see when all the stories come out."
Michael Sanserino: 412-263-1722. Staff writer Dan Gigler contributed. First Published February 2, 2011 5:00 AM