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Ben Roethlisberger stepping up as Steelers' ultimate leader

Ben Roethlisberger hasn't always been the unquestioned leader of the Steelers, but he certainly is now.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger was thrust into the NFL spotlight earlier than most football players, and to say he made some mistakes during those early years is an understatement. The motorcycle accident, the incident in Nevada, then the incident in Georgia. All the while, fans lamented that Roethlisberger need to "grow up" and "become the leader" of the Steelers.

Only problem was, that at that time, Roethlisberger didn't need to be a leader on the team. The team didn't want another voice in the locker room, they wanted a winner. Roethlisberger delivered the goods in that regard.

In the early portion of Roethlisberger's tenure with the Steelers, there were Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter and Aaron Smith that were the leaders of the team. No one questioned that authority, and everyone followed suit. When those players moved on, it was James Farrior, James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark.

As those players also departed Pittsburgh, fans were wondering when 'Big Ben' was going to step up and lead the offense to a 7th championship. If you watched closely, that transformation started in 2013 after beginning 0-4. It was Roethlisberger that seemed to finally buy into Haley's system, Haley finally trusted Roethlisberger and it was Roethlisberger that put the offense on his back via the no huddle and got the team a field goal kick away from the postseason.

Roethlisberger is unquestionably the leader of the Steelers. Regardless of offense or defense, it is Roethlisberger that sets to tone. His position coach has even noticed a distinguished change in how the quarterback approaches his job in 2014.

"Maybe the intensity changed a little bit" "Obviously he's here a lot more. He's got two kids now, a wife. You have your own things going on  and you can't be all diferent places. I think he put an emphasis on 'Maybe I can't do all the charity works,' or 'I can't travel the country' or 'I can't do all of those things.' I think it's just an intensity. It's an intensity by him to say 'I'm going to be here.'" Quarterbacks coach Randy Fitchtner told Jim Wexell of

Roethlisberger is finally getting "it". There is a correlation between the work you put in and what you get out in terms of performance. It also doesn't hurt that the quarterback is seeing the larger portion of his career in his rear view mirror and wondering how many chances he has left to get back to the big game.

Whatever the reason may be, Roethlisberger is stepping up as a leader, and that is something this young offense desperately needs heading into the 2014 campaign.

"Every year you grow as a leader," "Everyone that comes into the NFL was probably a star on their team, and you're not a star here. You read as a rookie you should be seen, not heard. I want to see these guys not make the same mistake twice. I'll give them some leeway for a dropped pass here and there, but when they make the same mistake twice you need to get on them." said Roethlisberger of his young teammates on offense.

Roethlisberger is considered to be in the prime of his career, and the quarterback looks to be taking each and every step along the way with a little more urgency and initiative. After all, who knows how many years you have left.

"I don't know if it's so much the urgency because quote-unqote I'm getting towards the end or whatever it is, because I physically feel great," "Maybe that's what it is. Maybe I feel so good that I just want to really kind of play great and have this offense playing great. It might just be excitement." Roethlisberger said.

With Roethlisberger leading this Steelers team, there is no question what this 2014 team might accomplish.