Ben Roethlisberger may be the player in the NFL with the widest gap in popularity. There are those who worship him. Then there are those who post comments on Bleacher Report saying he sucks and shouldn't be in the NFL.
I am somewhere in the middle, though much more heavily leaning toward the "he is amazing" side. I can understand why some might not love his style of play. But saying he is not even a good QB is just ignorant of the facts. I am definitely not saying anyone is ignorant, just that you might not know everything there is to know.
First of all, Ben has a career QB rating of 91.5, and that's good enough for top 10 all time. He's one of only 10 quarterbacks ever to throw for 500 yards in a game. He went 13-0 in his first season, and won rookie of the year, and then won two Super Bowls in his first five years in the league.
He's one of the only people to have thrown a perfect game in terms of quarterback rating, and he managed to do it three times in his short career—more than anyone else except Peyton Manning.
In the first Super Bowl he played in, he was a kid who had never been on even close to such a large stage before, and it showed. I'm not making excuses; he sucked, incredibly. But in the playoffs leading up to that game, he put the team on his back against both Indy and Denver, carrying them through the playoffs and single-handedly saving the season with his legendary tackle of Nick Harper against the Colts.
Yes, the Steelers' defense is quite often one of the best in the NFL. But it is also true that for most of his career Ben has had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. He gets pressured a ridiculous amount and not only gets away from the pressure, he exceeds expectations and manages to be the best quarterback in the game when on the run.
His escapes are ridiculous. It is here where his true value lies. His intangibles.
There is no statistic for number-of-defenders-that-attempted-to-tackle-quarterback-but-hit-him-and-he-escaped-and-then-he-threw-a-pass-that-was-either-a-first-down-or-touchdown. First of all, that abbreviation would be absolutely ridiculous. But second of all, no one seems to notice that because he makes it look so easy.
The Super Bowl last year is a prime example. He avoided pressure again and again, scrambling for over 10 seconds on the final TD play, before finally pulling the win out of his ass.
His third season in the NFL was marred with crappiness. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns and his completion percentage was "awful" (I do not agree, as at 59.7 percent, it's better than Eli Manning's career percentage, is better than quite a few seasons from Brett Favre, and is eerily similar to Matt Hasselbeck's career percentage as well), and he took his team from 11-5 and a Super Bowl win to 8-8.
Ben's worst season was about the same as overall career numbers for a few highly regarded quarterbacks. This was during a season in which he broke his face and ripped open his body. I heard Chuck Norris tried those things and cried, but Ben only whimpered.
At his best, which, until this year, was 2007, he had a QB Rating of 104 and threw 34 TDs, both are excellent numbers.
At this point in his career, he is the Steelers. A few years ago, some made the assessment that he was just a game manager. Well, that is long gone. He is now a premier quarterback in the NFL. When was the last time a game manager threw for 500 yards or four TDs? When was the last time a game manager drove his team 88 yards in two minutes to win a Super Bowl?
Ben truly has evolved into one of the best QB's of his era. He is very unconventional, so it's only natural for some to hate him. He will never own the cocky, pretty look of Manning or Brady as they stand cooly in the pocket and sling a ball to a receiver without taking a step near the edge of the pocket.
But they will never take a broken play and turn it into a game winning touchdown. Stating Ben is "the best in the game" or "top five, definitely" makes no sense, as this is all subjective, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. The stats are all there saying he's a top player. The actual plays are there saying he's a top player. I firmly believe he is a top player.
There can be arguments made for Brady, Manning, Brees, Palmer, Rivers, baby-Manning, Favre, McNabb, Schaub, Rodgers, Warner, Romo, or Cutler. I don't care. Give me an average team with average players across the board and I get to pick any current QB, Ben will be in my top three every time. I don't actually believe what I'm seeing sometimes when I watch him.
If the Steelers D hadn't given up every game this year (they've lead or tied in the fourth quarter every game they've lost), then Ben would be getting serious MVP consideration. He has put the Steelers in position to win every game and the vaunted defense has let him down. This week he was forced to win against Green Bay three separate times because his D let them score almost at will.
Even at just 10-4, Ben would be right near the top of the discussion of best player for his team. He currently has 22 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions and 3,800 yards. Those are quite a set of good numbers. At this point, Peyton and Drew are inching away, and one of them is going to take it easily, but Ben is right at their heels. He should not win it by any means, but he should get more notice than he does.
He is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Half of the people that talk about him say he sucks or that the Steelers carry him, but I firmly believe they don't even watch the games. It's been the other way around for two seasons now. Without Ben, the Steelers are a 7-9, 6-10 team at best. With him, they have a chance to be a Super Bowl contender every year.
Yes, Ben has issues. Sometimes I want to punch him in the face when I watch him run around for five seconds, see a defender, look around some more, then get wrapped up and hold that stupid look on his face as he realizes he got sacked for the ninth time in a game.
But the truth is, I'll take the sacks any day because if he didn't try to make so many plays, he wouldn't be nearly the quarterback he is. That quarterback is one of the best in the NFL. Big Ben has emerged as an excellent, excellent player. And people need to start taking notice.
He had the period of five years where people could still hold that first year in the league where he was a game manager over his head. That's over now. He's one of the most dangerous QB's ever to play the game, reminiscent of Fran Tarkenton, except Ben is better.
By the end of his career, he's on pace for 55,000 career passing yards, 340 touchdowns, a QB rating of above 90, and 160 wins. I won't predict how many Super Bowls he might win, but with two in his first five years, we can guesstimate it might be more.
Those statistics are not only HOF worthy, but a few of them will approach Dan Marino's numbers, which are widely regarded as some of the best of all time. Ben will be on pace for only 6,000 less yards than Marino, spread that over 10 more years, it's only an extra hundred yards or so a year.
He is already a machine; in 10 more years he'll be ridiculous.
I am tired of having to argue Ben's case every time a quarterback discussion pops up. Everything points to him being a superior player—stats, wins, intangibles, Super Bowls, everything. He could retire now and make a claim he belongs in the Hall of Fame—it would be ludicrous, but it would be arguable to some.
Big Ben has transformed from a kid who was dragged along by the Bus and Blitzburgh of the 2000s to a fantastic player—the best player on a very great team—and one of the best players in the NFL.
I won't be able to convince all of you, hell not even most of you. But I don't need to. I can see the truth myself. Give it time if you need to, but please don't argue and be forced to eat your words years from now.
Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks of his generation and a worthy heir to Favre, Manning, and Brady. When they retire, he will assume the mantle of the league's preeminent player.
And then lose that mantle when Favre un-retires. And then regain it when the bearded one finally hangs it up.
Etcetera for who knows how long.