By Guest Blogger Brandon Parro (“Superfan”):
I’ve hit my breaking point. The hate, born of regret and jealousy, are now too much to ignore — especially during this week, this moment. Please read carefully, because there are no words being minced here: Ben Roethlisberger is one of the all-time greats at quarterback in NFL history.
It amuses me how many dismiss Roethlisberger’s impact at quarterback due to the fact that he plays with a dominant defense and a solid run game. They say he manages the game and isn’t required to do too much. That the defense covers for his mistakes. That anybody behind center could win with that defense and run game.
I pose this question: Did the Steelers suddenly change their identity to defense and running the ball when Paul Tagliabue announced Roethlisberger’s name as the No. 11 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft? Did Pittsburgh miraculously acquire Troy Polamalu, James Farrior, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Ike Taylor, Joey Porter, etc. the same year it drafted Big Ben? Did Bill Cowher/Mike Tomlin awake from a dream one night and proclaim to use Jerome Bettis/Willie Parker/Rashard Mendenhall more in the offense? I don’t think so. The personnel and the philosophy were already in place before Roethlisberger joined the Black & Gold. Pittsburgh’s ferocious defense and snow-plow run game have been staples of the Steelers for decades and, after a tumultuous 1980’s, were fiercely reborn in the early 90’s with Cowher’s hire.
The point is that through Cowher’s first 13 years on the Pittsburgh sideline, the Steelers were the same gritty bunch as they are today with the same philosophy. However, the Steelers only started collecting post-1970’s Lombardi Trophies when No. 7 arrived on the scene. Why couldn’t Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham or Tommy Maddox capture Lombardi with that world-class defense and rush attack? It just might be the biggest coincidence in NFL history that the Steelers started winning championships upon Roethlisberger’s employment.
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There was a reason that Pittsburgh held the No. 11 pick in that ‘04 Draft to select Roethlisberger: it was a bad team with a 6-10 record in 2003. A year later, Pittsburgh becomes the first AFC team ever to win 15 games and earns a berth in the AFC Championship Game. The biggest personnel adjustment that season: a first-year quarterback out of Miami (Ohio) who set rookie records in completion percentage and passer rating…along with becoming the first QB in league history to go 13-0 during the regular season. It must be a coincidence…
“But he didn’t have to do anything but hand off to the Bus his rookie year.” Morons. Roethlisberger won every kind of game his rookie year when the pressure was on his shoulders. Won in monsoon conditions his first start at Miami. Engineered a fourth-quarter comeback at Dallas, down 10 points in the fourth quarter. Upended previously unbeaten New England and Philadelphia in back-to-back weeks at midseason. Worked the two-minute drill to perfection in setting up late, go-ahead field goal at Jacksonville. Passed for 300-plus in a shootout at Giants Stadium.
Roethlisberger, like most rookies, was finally exposed in his first postseason, bowing out to the Patriots in the conference title game en route to their third title in four years (see SpyGate).
So with a season of experience under his belt, Roethlisberger ranked third in passer rating in 2005 and the Steelers made NFL history as the first No. 6 seed to appear in the conference championship game, let alone winning the Super Bowl. Their fifth Lombardi Trophy did not come easy, having to knock off the AFC’s top three seeds away from Heinz Field.
“Ben sucked in the Super Bowl…they won despite Roethlisberger.” Yes it’s true, Roethlisberger struggled in Super Bowl XL versus Seattle, but there is no way the Steelers would have even been in that game without him. Nobody outside of Pittsburgh seems to remember the three AFC playoff games that preceded the Super Bowl, on the road at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver. The second-year signal caller averaged 227 yards/game with a 68.1 completion percentage, a 7-1 TD-INT ratio and a QB rating of 123.
If the NFL handed out an AFC Playoff MVP award, much like baseball’s LCS MVP honors, Roethlisberger would have easily garnered that accolade. Had Hines Ward’s game-sealing TD reception come from Roethlisberger’s hand rather than Antwaan Randle El’s, Ben’s legacy may be different. But because many “fans” only pay attention to the Super Bowl and not the whole body of work, the credit isn’t given.
Not a bad way to start a career, becoming the first QB in league annals to appear in the conference championship in his first two seasons and the youngest at the position to win the Super Bowl.
The motorcycle accident, emergency appendectomy and general “Super Bowl Hangover” by the entire team kept Pittsburgh out of the playoffs in 2006. The team rebounded in ‘07 as Roethlisberger threw for a club-record 32 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions to reclaim the AFC North title, laying the foundation for another championship run in 2008.
Roethlisberger became just the 10th quarterback ever to win multiple Super Bowl titles. This time there were no naysayers as Big Ben made the greatest pass in Super Bowl history, finding Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone for a come-from-behind win with :35 on the clock, cementing perhaps the most exciting Super Bowl ever. The 78-yard drive leading up to the game-winning TD pass was perhaps even more impressive and lends credence to the notion that he is the most clutch quarterback of this generation.
And that running game that carries Roethlisberger? Ranked only 23rd during the ‘08 championship season.
The Steelers failed once again to qualify for the postseason in 2009 to defend their title, but Roethlisberger posted a career-high 4,328 yards with a 100.5 passer rating. This time, the defense had questions to answer as it blew several fourth-quarter leads. Obviously by now everybody knows about the 37-36 win versus Green Bay that season. Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards with a TD strike to Mike Wallace as time expired for the win. Defense? Run Game?
So, as No. 7 leads the Steelers toward Vince Lombardi Trophy No. 7 on Sunday, how this man does not get the credit he deserves is beyond me. Maybe I’ll have to wait until Monday morning or perhaps until he brings title No. 8 to the Steel City. All I do know is that Roethlisberger makes plays. He is the modern day John Elway: the fourth quarter is his. He continues to make clutch play after clutch play. He makes season-saving tackles in the playoffs. He doesn’t lose to his biggest rival, Baltimore, winning his last seven games versus the Ravens while his backups have gone 0-3. He set an NFL record for most wins through five seasons to start a career and is 69-27 (.719) in the regular season and 10-2 (.833) in the postseason.
What more does the guy have to do??? HE JUST WINS GAMES.
There are 10 teams who passed on Roethlisberger in the ‘04 Draft. Ten teams who forever altered their futures and that of the Steelers, and I would like to thank them for overlooking the small-school quarterback. NYG, OAK, ARZ, SD, WSH, CLE, DET, ATL, JAX and HOU. Thank you for not having the vision and skill that the Steelers front office has.
Obviously, football is not a one-man game and every unit on this team contributes to the numerous division, conference and league titles this franchise collects. But it’s not just coincidence that the Steelers are playing in their third Super Bowl in the seven years Roethlisberger has been the quarterback. His addition put an already formidable football team over the top — and it’s time that he received his due.