PITTSBURGH - A contrite Ben Roethlisberger said he got caught up in being a caricature called Big Ben, not the grounded player and person he once was, leading to his off-field problems and affecting his play as the Steelers quarterback.
"Big Ben just kept building up. It ended up coming off the field. It kept taking over. Superman kept taking over Clark Kent and you just never saw who Ben Roethlisberger was any more," Roethlisberger told KDKA-TV. "At the time, I didn't see it. I was gaining everything, but I was losing a lot of who I was raised to be. It got so overwhelming, it consumed me."
In his first detailed interviews since a Georgia college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in a nightclub bathroom on March 5, Roethlisberger told two Pittsburgh stations he doesn't have an alcohol problem.
While Roethlisberger told KDKA there were drinking issues on his late mother's side of the family, he said his father, Ken, never permitted alcohol in their house in Findlay, even when the quarterback played at Miami (Ohio).
Roethlisberger didn't promise he wouldn't use alcohol again, but said he must make "smart" decisions.
He did promise he won't go back to being the ego-driven, rude and boorish person he was before, not only in public but in private. Among those he has consulted for advice are former Steelers coach Bill Cowher - Roethlisberger said the two are much closer than they were before - and former Steelers running back Merril Hoge, now an NFL analyst.
"I've wanted to apologize to [fans] for so many things. For being immature, for being dumb, for being young, for not knowing any better," he told WTAE. "For getting caught up in everything that was thrown my way. In my heart, I know I haven't been the best person, the best quarterback for the Steelers, I'm not talking just on the field, I'm talking off the field."
Roethlisberger said he is sorry that his behavior hurt and saddened his parents, sister, and other family members. His sister, Carlee, was a member of Oklahoma's NCAA women's basketball Final Four team, yet she told reporters he did not attend one of her games last season.