Big Ben's big secret gets out, but who is she?
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
By Sally Kalson and Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger

If Ben Roethlisberger is engaged to be married, he doesn't want to talk about it. But a lot of other people do.

The social media have been all a-Twitter with congratulations for the Steelers quarterback, who purportedly popped the question to a young woman from Lawrence County over the holidays.

Asked point blank if he was engaged, Mr. Roethlisberger declined to answer, except to say he wouldn't talk about his private life.

KDKA's John Shumway went to Mr. Roethlisberger Tuesday in the Steelers locker room and asked the quarterback if all the rumors were true.

Mr. Roethlisberger fended off the question like a blitzing linebacker.

"Oh geez. Listen, there's always rumors out there about professional athletes, especially about me. You guys know that I am not going to talk about my own personal life, I don't do that. My one singular focus right now is on the playoffs, on football and trying to get to the Super Bowl."

But while Mr. Roethlisberger sidestepped the question, social media sites rushed in with Tweets and blogs and postings, identifying his "fiancee" as a resident of Hickory Township, near New Castle.

Information developed by the newspaper showed her as a graduate of Laurel High School, where she was a softball star, and a 2008 graduate of St. Francis University in Loretto, Cambria County, with a bachelor's degree in health science, and, a year later, a master of physician assistant.

Armed with that information, the Post-Gazette went to Lawrence County, where the bride-to-be was said to reside.

They smiled congenially but, in the end, David and Gloria Harlan declined to comment on all the reports that their daughter, Ashley, was engaged to be married to the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'm sorry but I have no comment at this time," said Mrs. Harlan, whose family lives atop a rural knob that overlooks Devil's Elbow Road in Hickory Township, just outside the village of Eastbrook near New Castle.

Another pleasant smile and "no comment" followed minutes later from Mr. Harlan after he pulled his pickup into the driveway Tuesday evening.

A few neighbors confirmed that it was common knowledge that Ashley and Ben have been "an item" -- as Amy Kunselman put it. But, no one had first-hand information about any pending nuptials. At least no information they were willing to share.

"They're a wonderful family," Mrs. Kunselman said of the Harlans.

Word of the couple's relationship began circulating in the community following a summer outing by Mrs. Harlan and Mr. Roethlisberger's stepmother to a little shop in nearby Volant.

Mrs. Harlan is said to have introduced Mrs. Roethlisberger to an acquaintance as the mother of her daughter's boyfriend.