Pittsburgh Steelers: Is Ben Roethlisberger a Top-Five Quarterback in the NFL?
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was recently named the No. 6 overall quarterback in the NFL by ESPN's Ron Jaworski which brings up the question: Is Roethlisberger a top-five quarterback in the NFL or not?
The ranking comes from Jawroski's much-hyped list of the 30-best quarterbacks in the NFL. Roethlisberger was the highest-ranked quarterback in the AFC North and certainly found himself in some elite company.
Five quarterbacks were listed ahead of Big Ben. The five, in order, are Eli Manning of the New York Giants, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
The five are no surprise, but whether or not they should be ranked above Roethlisberger is questionable. Jaworski heaped Big Ben with praise to justify the ranking (h/t Yahoo.com):
Roethlisberger is the strongest quarterback in the NFL. He not only extends plays with movement out of the pocket, but also with his natural strength IN the pocket. He's "barn strong." At times, there's a "make it up as you go" style to Roethlisberger's game.
Here's what Roethlisberger does not get enough credit for: his ability to make throws consistently from the pocket. I charted all 60 of his 20-plus-yard completions in 2011. Only five came outside the pocket. In fact, time and time again he showed one of the most central attributes necessary to play at a high level in the NFL: the willingness to look down the gun barrel and deliver the football.
Jaworski points out most of the well-known facts about Big Ben. He is a massive quarterback that excels in extending plays with his feet and finding the open man with tight, accurate passes. A more concerning part of Jawroski's analysis is when he reveals he does not consider Roethlisberger an elite quarterback:
Is Jaws' No. 6 ranking for Big Ben fair?
I have seen a lot of growth from Roethlisberger in recent seasons. Once undisciplined and inconsistent in the pocket, he is now much improved. At No. 6 on my Big Board, Roethlisberger's on the cusp of becoming elite.
If being an elite NFL quarterback means landing in the top five of a rankings list, perhaps it is time to extend that qualification to the top seven or eight. The NFL is drastically changing to a passing league, and that in itself will allow more quarterbacks to enter the elite level.
Roesthlisberger should be considered an elite player because of his staggering consistency since entering the league in 2004. He has broken a plethora of Steelers' franchise records, along with some NFL records to boot.
While it is not an effective way to determine if a quarterback is elite, it would still be unwise to omit that fact that he has won two Super Bowl championships already.
For comparison's sake, Rodgers, Brees and Peyton Manning have won a single Super Bowl; Eli Manning has matched Roethlisberger with two; and Brady rounds out the group with three Super Bowl victories.
Statistically in 2011, Big Ben did not have better numbers than any of the quarterbacks listed above him on the list except Peyton Manning, who missed the entire season. He trailed in total yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt and quarterback rating.
When examining the list based on statistics alone, perhaps Jaworski is correct in his ranking of Big Ben.
To appear higher on this list next offseason, Roethlisberger is going to have to progress as a player and continue to make better decisions with the football. He only threw 21 touchdowns to 14 interceptions last year.
He will also simply have to attempt more passes, as he only threw 513 in 2011. His total numbers will jump drastically if he comes anywhere near Brees' 657 attempts or Brady's 611. A jump in attempts would, of course, counter the Steelers' offensive philosophy of a hard-hitting rushing attack backed by an elite defense.
If Jaworski is correct, Roethlisberger has not hit his peak. Jaworski believes Big Ben is on the brink of being one of the game's best along with Brees, Rodgers, the Mannings and Brady. Only time will tell if he can take the next step.
In the meantime, let the debate begin. Is Ben Roethlisberger a top-five quarterback in the NFL or not?
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