Steelers' fans are accustomed to seeing Ben Roethlisberger the football player, the guy on Sunday afternoons throwing touchdown passes, eluding defenders and making incredible plays on the football field.
But what they don't often get to see are those tender moments when Roethlisberger is at his best, making kids smile, bringing happiness to a sick child who through the Make-A-Wish Foundation wants to meet the Steelers and Roethlisberger in particular.
"When a person has a last wish, or one wish to be granted, and they want to hang out with me, or hang out with the Steelers," started Roethlisberger, pausing for a minute as he realized the enormity of what it means. "For all of the things they could do and they want to do that …it's pretty amazing."
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger giving back to the city of Pittsburgh through the years
He never hesitates when it comes to spending time with wish recipients, enjoying quiet moments with the kids after practice and always bringing laughter to even some shy, timid kids.
"He understands it, he gets it," said Leigh Ann Lubarsky, Senior Manager of Program Services at Make-A-Wish in Pittsburgh. "He knows of all things this kid could have wished for, he wished to come there and meet him. He takes that time out of his day and that's everything to a wish kid. He gets that. He is able to put everything aside and comes out to see the kids and is so approachable and jovial. Sometimes he will pretend he is not Ben, and the kids are so in awe.
"There is that moment you can see he connects with that kid. It's so profound. When he is standing there he almost can't believe the kid is that awestruck because it's just him. It's so special. For a kid to stand there and be like, 'Ben is coming,' that is so exciting. That moment is going to live forever with that family and it's great."
He also has a soft spot in his heart for those that protect and serve the community, in particular the K9 units as his love for animals has grown into a passion for helping law enforcement through the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation.
Each year Roethlisberger provides a grant to a law enforcement agency or fire department in the Pittsburgh area, as well as to one in the cities where the Steelers play. The grant is to be used for the K9 units, bomb sniffing dogs or rescue dogs.
The foundation, which started awarding the grants in 2007, has donated in excess of $1.2 million. He was honored by the Amen Corner last year at Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Luncheon, becoming the first non-law enforcement individual to be honored by the organization, receiving an award for his contribution to K9 units of police and fire departments in the Pittsburgh area and throughout the country.
"I don't think the service people get enough recognition and credit for the things that they do and the tireless efforts that they put in," said Roethlisberger. "If I can do just a little bit to help them, then I am happy about that."