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“It’s such an honor every day to know you play for an organization like this with ownership like the Rooneys, coaches like (Chuck) Noll, (Bill) Cowher, (Mike) Tomlin and the players that have graced the locker room at Three Rivers Stadium and now here. There’s way too many to name. It’s awesome to be a part of that and to be able say you are a part of it forever.”

Roethlisberger wasn’t always so quotable, so cooperative, so accessible. He’s a different person now, though. Circumstances made him change. His image needed an overhaul.

Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for four games to start the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He was accused in March of sexual assault of a 20-year-old college student, but a prosecutor in Georgia declined to bring charges.

Roethlisberger didn’t talk to reporters for months following those allegations, but he showed up to training camp with a new-and-improved personality. Gone was the self-absorbed Roethlisberger, who had irritated some of his veteran teammates with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude.

He wasn’t rude, he signed autographs, he kidded other players and became media-friendly. So much so that the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association voted overwhelmingly to present him with a media cooperation award that is named for Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. Past winners include Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney, Rod Woodson, Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward.

“He’s matured a whole lot,” said receiver Antwaan Randle El, who returned to the Steelers after spending the last four years in Washington. “And that’s evident from the first Super Bowl he played in to the one he played in ‘08. A very different quarterback _ more confidence, I would say. Certainly, more aware of the offense and where guys need to be and stuff like that. He’s light years from where he was when he went to the Super Bowl the first time.”

Roethlisberger’s punishment was a tough one, especially since he’s a fierce competitor who does whatever it takes to win games. He’s played through a broken nose and a badly injured right foot.

Teammates understood how difficult it was for Roethlisberger to sit out the first month, and they admire his win-at-all-costs mentality.

“We all knew it wasn’t easy for him to be away from the team,” tight end Heath Miller said. “In many respects, this is his team. When he came back, there were no words that needed to be said, no apologies. We knew he was ready to lead us to the Super Bowl.”

Given his past off-field problems and where he is now, Roethlisberger probably will be asked the same question more than a hundred times before kickoff against the Packers.

“What was the impact of everything you went through earlier this year on you getting to this point?

Without hesitation, as if he had already prepared the answer, Roethlisberger replied: “That’s a reflective question. Now’s not the time for me to reflect. Now’s the time for me to focus on a really, really big game.”

It sure is a big one. Winning would put Roethlisberger in elite company with Tom Brady and Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman.

“I’m not thinking about winning one yet,” he said. “I’m thinking about preparing this week for a huge game against a great defense.”

Hmmmm. Wonder what the old Big Ben would’ve said.