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To Big Ben Roethlisberger

Man...where do I start? 

I've been dreading this day for a while. The day you aren't the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The day I have to say goodbye. Because I know once you've hung 'em up, once you've taken off the black and gold cape and finally placed it in the locker for the last time, we won't see you much. You'll spend time with your beautiful wife Ashley, and your three little ones, Ben Jr., Baylee, and Bodie. As you should. You've spent the last 18 years dawning the black and gold, going to battle, putting your body on the line every week for my favorite team. 

I was 10 years old when the Steelers drafted you. I remember being at a baseball tournament while the draft was going on back in 2004. My dad was so excited. "I think we're about to get that Roethlisberger kid" he eagerly said to me. My sister, ironically enough, was 7 years old. And I want to take a bit to talk about her. She fell in love with you from the day you became a Steeler. So did the rest of us, but she was different. She came to your summer football camp, as one of the only girls, when she was 11. She came back the next year when she was 12. She actually won camper of the day. Got to meet you. Spend time with you. This is her way back when with you. 

Talk about a highlight of a lifetime. She was just a kid then. But since then she's grown into a woman with a husband of her own who has now become just as big a Steelers fan as me and the rest of my family. All because of you. My dad mentioned you in his toast at her wedding, and in her maid of honor speech my baby sister, who doesn't give a shit about football, said she never thought my sister would find a guy (my new brother-in-law) she loved as much as Ben Roethlisberger.  I don't give a damn what anybody says about you on Twitter, you made my sister's life that day and ever since. As a big brother, like you are, I'll be forever grateful for that.

And all the while we watched every week. We watched you fend off 300 pound defensive tackles and linebackers like Terrell Suggs. We watched you duck blitzes to find the likes of Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and Antonio Brown. We watched you play on the biggest stages and bring home the brightest trophies. We watched you bring joy to us and countless, COUNTLESS others of Steelers and football fans. We watched you turn from a young, big, historic rookie, running around making plays, all the way to a seasoned vet operating the show from the pocket and handing off to guys like Najee Harris. We've watched you go from a kid,  who we ourselves are now older than, to a devoted husband and father. You've been with us through it all. Through middle school awkwardness to high school cockiness to becoming an adult myself. 

One thing I've always been able to count on is Big #7 being the one taking snaps every Sunday for my favorite team. And now that's about to change. Like the great Peyton Manning said himself in his speech to Indianapolis when his time with the Colts was done, "all good things come to an end", and you've been that and so much more, Big Ben. Every city, every franchise, hopes every year to draft a guy who will be there for 15-20 years and bring home some Lombardi trophies. We've been lucky enough to experience that with you. 

Fitting to your nickname, you've become larger than life for the Mulinaros. Me, and that same sister who once attended your camp, worked it back in 2014. We got to see you firsthand interact with little kids and families who were so proud and happy to call you our quarterback. And that's something I have to address, too. You've taken plenty of heat in your career. PLENTY. But we always backed you because we were lucky enough to see with our own eyes how you are to your fans, the kids, and gotten to talk with your dad, Ken, and again your wife, Ashley. Becoming the first rookie to go 15-1 in his first 16 games, the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl in his 2nd season, and already become a legend by the time you're 25 for a franchise like the Steelers is something quite literally only you understand. 

I admire your toughness both mental and physical. I admire your ability to be bigger than all the First Take takes or shots at you online. I admire you as a father hoping to be one myself in the future. I admire your loyalty to the Steelers, their fans, and the city of Pittsburgh. My dad grew up with Terry Bradshaw. I grew up with you. I can't wait to be rocking my number 7 jersey waving my terrible towel in Heinz Field on Monday night one last time hearing "AND YOUR QUARTERBACK….FROM MIAMI OF OHIO….BEN ROETHLISBERGER". 

And I know one day very soon we'll look back and say "man…that would be a play ol' #7 would've have made look so easy." We'll miss it. 

You've fought the good fight. You've put yourself on the line for 18 years. Now sit back and enjoy your legacy. One that won't ever be forgotten. Thank you, Big Ben Roethlisberger, for making our life as a Steelers fan one of so much joy. We love you forever. 

The Mulinaro family.