Since being drafted in 2004 by the Steelers, he has achieved a level of success that no other quarterback in his draft class has attained. Of the 10 players chosen in front of him in the draft, only Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring to his credit. Roethlisberger, whom Pittsburgh presented an opportunity to play immediately, went 13-0 as a starter in his rookie season, guiding the Steelers to the playoffs; an amazing feat that won him the NFL AP Rookie of the Year Award.
While Manning struggled to gain respect playing for the New York Giants his rookie season, Roethlisberger had already earned the “franchise quarterback” tag as captain of the Steeler offense. The very next season, “Big Ben” guided his team to a Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks, becoming the youngest quarterback in history to win the big game.
However, the humble Roethlisberger recently admitted to the media that “He was so nervous before that his legs were like jelly.” Ben’s passer rating was the lowest in Super Bowl History at 22.6, yet his team still won the game, thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run by Willie Parker and a flea-flicker touchdown pass from Antwan Randle-El to Hines Ward.
Like all great athletes, Ben was determined to redeem himself for his two interception performance in Super Bowl XL. The Findlay, Ohio native, whose “Pittsburgh-like toughness” helped him overcome a severe motor cycle accident in 2006 and several additional injuries, led his team back to the Super Bowl, this time in a more relaxed frame of mind.
If his rookie season was Roethlisberger’s “recognition season,” then the 2008 season was his “respect season.” All the critics and doubters who thought that Ben was just riding on the Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker train back in 2005 were silenced when he led the Steelers to a 12-4 record, another AFC championship, and just over one week ago, his second Super Bowl title.
In Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals, Roethlisberger’s passer rating was much improved, as he completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Not only were Big Ben’s numbers better than his previous Super Bowl, but he also scripted a story-book ending, leading his team to victory in the last 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the game. It was Ben’s 19th such victory in which he had rallied his team from a fourth quarter deficit or tie.
Perhaps somewhere, Ben’s childhood idol and Hall of Fame Quarterback John Elway is watching and admiring. Elway, who is the winningest quarterback in NFL history, is also famous for his last minute drives, all 47 of them, including “The Drive” against the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship game.
Although it is yet to be determined whether or not Roethlisberger will last as long as the 16 seasons that Elway did, Ben’s ultimate legacy may have just been determined by his ability to pull off one of the greatest come-from-behind drives in Super Bowl history.
Even if Ben never makes an appearance in another Super Bowl, the 26-year old quarterback has shown the determination, toughness, and proven ability to win that Montana, Elway, Brady, Favre, Unitas, Bradshaw, and all the great quarterbacks in NFL history have demonstrated.
The humble Roethlisberger may just surpass them all in total victories in the regular season and in the playoffs, where Ben somehow finds a way to win in the most gutsy and dramatic of ways.