I know football is a game, but I spent my '20s genuinely disliking Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers have had many villains in the storied Ravens-Steelers rivalry, guys like Hines Ward, Joey Porter, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. But Roethlisberger was the best villain.
None of the others had the layers and longevity of Roethlisberger, who tormented the Ravens and their fans too many times over his 18-year career.
Here are five reasons why Roethlisberger was the worst:
No. 1: His instant success was irksome. Roethlisberger lost his first career game to the Ravens, then won 13 straight regular season starts and went to the AFC championship as a rookie. He claimed his first Super Bowl in his second year, despite one of the worst passing games of his career, in which he threw for 123 yards and two interceptions. His passer rating of 22.6 was the lowest in Super Bowl history by a winning quarterback.
No. 2: He would never die. It didn't matter how many hits the Ravens laid on Roethlisberger, or how many quarters they had bottled him up for, Roethlisberger would almost always find a way to drive the dagger into the Ravens' chest if the game was close in the fourth quarter. Even now, I find myself doubting that he'll actually retire. He's like the horror movie monster; never take your eye off him.
No. 3: He was constantly "injured." I've never seen somebody listed on the injury report as often as Roethlisberger, particularly in the week leading up to a Ravens game. During games, Roethlisberger was always limping, or grimacing, or something. It felt like part of a show to make his comebacks even more legendary or a way to justify his losses.
No. 4: He seemed about as athletic as my gym teacher, yet constantly pulled off miraculous plays that had no business happening. Calling Roethlisberger a mobile quarterback would be like calling a logger truck nimble. He lumbered around the pocket, yet somehow often slipped through the Ravens' hands. A 240-pound linebacker shouldn't be able to play quarterback.
No. 5: Terrell Suggs was a villain you could get behind, a guy who embraced the role with taglines and T-shirts. Roethlisberger always had this kind of "aww shucks" persona that didn't jive with his early career off-the-field troubles.
There are more reasons, but I'll stick to five. Point is, the guy was really annoying for a long time.
But with all that said, I will miss Roethlisberger being a part of this rivalry. He was perfect for the job.
Roethlisberger is a throwback to a time when the Ravens and Steelers both spent more time talking smack than talking about their mutual respect. Sportsmanship is all well and good, but I, for one, kind of miss those days.
It was fun to genuinely dislike your rival. It made the game feel more emotional, and the build-up to it part of the show.
In his prime, Roethlisberger also made it more fun to watch Ravens-Steelers games. You never knew what was going to come next with his backyard style of play. It was kind of like Lamar Jackson's exciting play, but in a totally different way.
Roethlisberger's massive frame and ability to take a beating encapsulated the physicality that defined the rivalry. Hit Big Ben and that clock would just keep on ticking.
It feels like we've said this countless times over the past decade, starting with Ray Lewis, but Ravens-Steelers just won't be the same without Roethlisberger. It took a massive hit when Suggs' days as a Raven ended. But even the past three seasons, it was still fun watching Baltimore's defense try to finish off what was left of Roethlisberger.
Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium offers one final chance to beat up on Ben, and surely the Ravens want to send their nemesis out with a loss. But you'll have to excuse me if I give the guy an ovation on the way out.