This from the Arizona Repugnant (Republic):

Ben Roethlisberger isn't pretty. His face is made for football.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is a brute on the field, a bully in the barroom and uncanny in the clutch. He delivers game-winning drives (25), fourth-quarter comebacks (19) and a dig-deep mentality that makes the NFL irresistible.

And yet for all the games he has stolen and hearts he has broken, nothing compares with the career comeback he's staging in 2010-11.

"The great thing is, it was so long ago that I've forgot all about it," Roethlisberger said of his recent troubles. "Right now, it's not about living in the past for me. It's the here and now, and this game. We really can't afford to look back and focus on the past."

OK, a reminder:

Roethlisberger started the season on a four-game suspension, loathed by football fans in his own community. The best quarterback in team history (Terry Bradshaw) was an outspoken critic, saying the Steelers should cut ties with him for his despicable conduct toward women, for dishonoring a proud franchise.


With another Super Bowl trophy, he would walk away as the new heavyweight champion among quarterbacks. He would put Bradshaw on mute - and on notice - that his mantel isn't safe, either.

Welcome to the NFL, where character is relative to the jewelry you possess. Just look at the Jets' Rex Ryan, only recently perceived as a clown with a fetish. In the wake of two huge playoff wins, he's suddenly the toast of his profession.

"From their coverages to their blitzes to their rushing two guys and getting sacks, it's truly amazing," Roethlisberger said of the incoming Jets. "Like I said, they can go into Indianapolis and beat Peyton Manning and go to New England and beat Tom Brady. Those are the two best quarterbacks, in my opinion. I don't know how I have a chance. I'm just going to try and get lucky and play the best I can."

That last comment was cheeky, and stuffed with meaning.

Roethlisberger won two Super Bowls in his first six seasons. That's one more than Manning, who is 34 and the fading dean of NFL quarterbacks. That's one fewer than Brady, whose reputation inside the game is taking a beating.

A Jets player used foul language to describe his contempt for Brady. The Ravens' Terrell Suggs questioned the validity of Brady's rings, saying he gets preferential treatment from the league and benefited from the top-shelf espionage in New England. The disrespect is alarming, but the facts are equally cold:

Brady is 2-3 as a playoff quarterback since Spygate went public, including three consecutive postseason losses.

Inside the lines, no one says a bad word about Roethlisberger. To the contrary, opposing players gush about his tenacity and toughness. His game-winning drive against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII will forever live on our Mt. Rushmore of regrets, yet his pass to Santonio Holmes was so perfect that we could actually surrender in good spirit . . . even though we had him first and 20 . . . from his own 12-yard line.

And if Roethlisberger beats the Jets this weekend, he does something that Brady and Manning couldn't. That makes a statement.

"I think it helps being familiar with the atmosphere, with the intensity of the game, knowing that every play matters, every play counts, every mistake is magnified," Roethlisberger said. "Being here and having done this before, I don't think you really get surprised with how big the game is."

After two allegations of sexual assault, there are numerous reports that Roethlisberger is now engaged. Pittsburgh bartenders once called him "the pied piper" of the social scene, yet according to an story, they haven't seen him around all season. He understands he's on a short leash with the Rooney family and is saying all the right things. Yet this story about redemption seems to make him squirm.

So is he really a changed man? Or is just being more careful?

"When it comes to being a (better) person, I just try to be the person my parents raised me to be," Roethlisberger said.

Truth is, Roethlisberger has learned a lot about the NFL. He knows the guys with the jewelry don't have to apologize for much. And soon, his mug could be the face of NFL, whether the commissioner likes it or not.

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