When it comes to elite quarterbacks in the NFL, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are the names that are usually thrown around. One name that that is usually not in this group is Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger is often categorized in the group just below the elite signal-callers of the league. But how is a quarterback with 95 wins—including playoffs—and over a 70 percent career winning percentage not considered elite? He doesn’t produce fantasy stats.
Over the course of his career, Roethlisberger has been a brilliant quarterback, but has done things his way and sometimes, that is not pretty.
No quarterback can extend plays better than Roethlisberger, and he has made a living of it for most of his career.
Rather than drop back and get rid of the ball, Roethlisberger loves to scramble and look for the big play downfield. As a result, he has taken a beating while putting up numbers in an unconventional way.
Despite not throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns on a weekly basis, Roethlisberger wins football games—a lot of them—and has won championships.
Isn’t winning the goal of an NFL quarterback? Roethlisberger has been darn good at it.
He already has two Super Bowl championships and came very close to a third. Over his first eight seasons, Roethlisberger had a winning record in seven of them and is on pace for another winning season this season.
Beyond another winning season, Roethlisberger is firmly cementing his place as an elite signal caller with his performance this season.
For the first time since early in his career, Roethlisberger is playing within a structured offensive system and he has been outstanding.
Pittsburgh’s new offensive scheme under Todd Haley has done wonders for Roethlisberger, as he is on pace for his most productive season ever and ranks near the top of the league in many categories.
Roethlisberger’s current quarterback rating of 101.1 ranks ahead of Brady and Brees and he has also been the most efficient passer on third downs this year. In fact, he is having one of the best seasons ever for a quarterback on third downs.
In addition to his rating, Roethlisberger’s 67.1 completion percentage is good for fourth in the league, ahead of quarterbacks such as Rodgers, Brady and Eli Manning, and he is just outside the top 10 in passing yards.
Through eight games, Roethlisberger is tied for fifth in the league with 16 touchdown passes, and he only has four interceptions.
So just looking at the numbers, Roethlisberger is in elite company and he is putting these numbers up the way in a traditional way—within a structured scheme that has him dropping back and hitting receivers in stride.
Just the fact that Roethlisberger has seamlessly tweaked his game to adjust to a new scheme demonstrates how versatile he can be as a quarterback.
Many of the other quarterbacks in the league would only be successful in one type of system, but Roethlisberger can do it all.
Short, medium and deep passes—no problem for Roethlisberger. He can work under center or out of the shotgun. He can run around to make plays or run a rhythm-based passing attack.
Defensive contact? No problem for Roethlisberger, as he excels on it. He is terrific on play action and no quarterback has the pump fake that Roethlisberger has.
Roethlisberger’s repertoire has been underrated because of how he has done things, but he is getting noticed now.
He continues to be a clutch quarterback, especially on third downs, where he has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 747 yards and seven touchdowns. His rating is 121.2 is the best in the league, as is his ESPN’s third-down QBR, which is 95.7.
Roethlisberger has three game-winning drives this year, bringing his career total—including playoffs—to 29 and two fourth-quarter comebacks to bring his career total to 22.
Simply put, Roethlisberger puts his team in position to win each week. Not only does that put him in the league’s elite, but should put him into MVP contention.
Teammate Bryon Leftwich saw that Roethlisberger was not in ESPN’s top five MVP candidates and told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was surprised with this.
"He should be a candidate," said Leftwich. "The fact he was not listed is ridiculous. He's one of the elite; '7' can play the game of football, and he's playing at a very high level."
Leftwich is exactly right.
Roethlisberger is one of the league’s elite and he is playing the quarterback position better than he ever has. This will put him in elite company for a long time to come.