Steelers' Roethlisberger Is Making Hall of Fame Company

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Steelers' Roethlisberger Is Making Hall of Fame Company
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Media bias never ceases to amaze me with the impact it has on viewers.  I have come to believe we’re all lemmings of one form or another, or one of the proverbial Buffaloes that follows the herd over the cliff.  Put it on TV, let it come from a sports announcer, read it in a paper, we believe it.  If you were to listen to ESPN, FoxSports, or other media outlets, athletes like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are great quarterbacks, yet Ben Roethlisberger has to fight just to get into the discussion. 

In addition, the media perpetuates labels.  Remember when Ben went 13-0 as a rookie?  And the announcers used the phrase “he manages the game”?  Wrongfully, it’s stuck with him, despite a 32 TD, 104.1 passer rating season one year ago and two Super Bowl titles in five yars.  Some of my other favorites are how Ben’s play isn’t “pretty” or it is “blue collar.”

After winning his second Super Bowl title this past February, there has finally been some collective, positive national media attention paid to Ben’s total work of effort to date.  Take for instance Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post and ESPN:  “If I had to win a game to save my own life I'd take Roethlisberger over everybody who played in the NFL this season, and that includes everybody named Manning. It's difficult to understand why the praise is so grudging.” - Big Ben Strikes Again - Michael Wilbon

Michael, I’ll tell you why the praise is so grudging.  We’re lemmings, and too few of the media see Ben as the truly great Quarterback he’s become - a future Hall of Fame QB, based on his current trajectory and accumulated stats.  And all one has to do is compare him with current, and future Hall of Fame quarterbacks to see that at this stage in his career, he’s either equal to, or better than most of them.

When you look at the following statistical comparisons, Ben fits right into the quarterback Hall of Fame crowd.  Following are comparisons of Ben to Troy Aikman, John Elway, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino.  Albeit not a comparison to all QBs in the Hall, it does provide a modern-era sampling of some of the best QBs the NFL has known.   Ben has played for 5 seasons, and as such I’m using the first 5 seasons of their respective careers as a point of comparison to level set the comparison. 

REGULAR SEASON STATISTICAL COMPARISONS

Games Won

No QB in NFL history has won more games in his first five seasons than Ben Roethlisberger.  As for winning percentage, only Tom Brady won more games that he started in his first five seasons than Ben did.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger – 51 (71.8%)
  2. Tom Brady and Dan Marino – 48 (77.4% and 69.6% respectively)
  3. John Elway – 46 (67.6%)
  4. Peyton Manning - 42 (52.5%)
  5. Troy Aikman – 38 (55.9%)
  6. Joe Montana - 28 (57.1%)

Completion Percentage

Of these Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Ben ranks second in Completion percentage.

  1. Joe Montana – 63.5%
  2. Roethlisberger – 62.4%
  3. Peyton Manning – 62.1%
  4. Troy Aikman – 62.0%
  5. Tom Brady – 61.6%
  6. Dan Marino – 60.6%
  7. John Elway – 54.1%

Passing Yardage

I find this stat particularly interesting.  Pittsburgh is historically a run first offense, yet Ben is ranked third in passing yardage among these QBs.  His passing attempts are lower than every QB on the list save for Montana, yet he’s ranked third in overall yardage.  See Yards/Attempt and Yards/Completion below.

  1. Peyton Manning – 20,618
  2. Dan Marino – 19,422
  3. Ben Roethlisberger – 14,974
  4. John Elway – 14,835
  5. Tom Brady – 13,925
  6. Troy Aikman – 13,627
  7. Joe Montana – 11,979

TD Passes

In the scoring category, Ben is again ranked third among these Hall of Fame quarterbacks with 101 TDs thrown in his first five seasons.  Equally as interesting is that his TD% is 5.3%, second on the list only to Dan Marino.

  1. Dan Marino – 168 (TD% = 6.7)
  2. Peyton Manning – 138 (TD% = 4.9)
  3. Ben Roethlisberger – 101 (TD% - 5.3)
  4. Tom Brady – 97 (TD% = 4.8)
  5. John Elway – 85 (TD% = 3.9)
  6. Joe Montana – 78 (TD% = 4.7)
  7. Troy Aikman – 69 (TD% = 3.6)

Interceptions

Interceptions are an area where Ben is often criticized.  Yet in this comparison of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, he is ranked fourth (not last), and threw 8, 11, and 31 fewer interceptions in his first 5 seasons as compared to Elway, Marino, and Manning, respectively.  Also, it’s interesting to note that Peyton Manning had an interception percentage of 3.5 as compared to Ben’s 3.6.

  1. Joe Montana – 44 (INT% = 2.7%)
  2. Tom Brady – 52 (INT% = 2.6%)
  3. Troy Aikman – 66 (INT% = 3.4%)
  4. Ben Roethlisberger – 69 (INT% = 3.6%)
  5. John Elway – 77 (INT% = 3.6%)
  6. Dan Marino – 80 (INT% = 3.2%)
  7. Peyton Manning – 100 (INT = 3.5%)

Yards per Attempt

Further evidence below that Ben gets the most out of his throws, averaging nearly 8 yards per attempt, a full yard per attempt above Brady and Elway.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger – 7.9
  2. Dan Marino – 7.8
  3. Joe Montana and Peyton Manning – 7.3
  4. Troy Aikman – 7.1
  5. Tom Brady and John Elway – 6.9

Yards per Completion

  1. Dan Marino – 12.8
  2. John Elway – 12.7
  3. Ben Roethlisberger – 12.6
  4. Peyton Manning – 11.8
  5. Joe Montana - 11.5
  6. Troy Aikman – 11.4
  7. Tom Brady – 11.2

Passer Rating

Obviously Dan Marino was off the charts as a pure passer.  Roethlisberger keeps excellent company ranking third among the HoF quarterbacks.

  1. Dan Marino – 94.1
  2. Joe Montana - 90
  3. Roethlisberger - 89.4
  4. Tom Brady – 87.5
  5. Peyton Manning – 85.6
  6. Troy Aikman - 81
  7. John Elway – 74.1

Sack Percentage

This is the other common area of critique when it comes to Ben, his sack numbers.  So many factors contribute to this number – OL performance, the health of the running back corps, the QB play, his awareness of the pocket, strength of schedule, etc.  Ben’s sack numbers have increased steadily over the past five seasons as follows – 30, 23, 46, 47, and 46.  The Steelers offensive line has also diminished in skill and experience along the same five year curve and has contributed to the rise in sacks.  Last year’s running back corps was decimated most of the season.  And yes, “he may hold the ball too long,” but that is also his strength in making big plays (see yards/completion, yards/attempt, yardage, TDs, etc). 

  1. Dan Marino – 2.6%
  2. Peyton Manning – 3.7%
  3. Joe Montana – 5.4%
  4. Tom Brady – 5.5%
  5. John Elway – 6.2%
  6. Troy Aikman – 6.8%
  7. Ben Roethlisberger – 9.2%

Regular Season Statistical Summary

When you consider all of these statistical categories, there is no question Ben belongs with this group. Of the nine categories, Ben finishes first two times, second once, thired four times, fourth once, and seventh (last) only once.  Clearly Ben’s numbers are better than average across the board against this group of exceptional peers.

POST SEASON COMPARISONS

Hall of Fame quarterbacks are expected to lead their teams to the playoffs, and ultimately to championships.  We all know that unless a QB is an exceptional QB, like Dan Marino, not having Super Bowl titles is a big detractor to Hall of Fame consideration.  In comparing the list of Hall of Fame QBs and their postseason performances, Ben again rises to the top.

Playoff Games Played

Ben leads the list in terms of playoff games played by the end of year five.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger – 10
  2. Tom Brady – 9
  3. John Elway – 8
  4. Troy Aikman – 7
  5. Dan Marino and Joe Montana – 5
  6. Peyton Manning – 3

Playoff Wins

Only Tom Brady, who was a perfect 9-0 in his first 5 years in playoff games, surpasses Ben's 8 playoff vicotories in his first five seasons.

  1. Tom Brady – 9
  2. Ben Roethlisberger – 8
  3. Troy Aikman – 6
  4. John Elway  and Joe Montana – 4
  5. Dan Marino – 3
  6. Peyton Manning – 0

Playoff TDs Thrown

  1. Ben Roethlisberger - 15
  2. Troy Aikman and Dan Marino - 13
  3. Tom Brady and John Elway - 11
  4. Joe Montana - 10
  5. Peyton Manning - 1

Total TDs thrown is a bit skewed, seeing as each of th eplayers played in a varied number of total playoff games.  So to differently compare the QBs' TD effiiciencies, see th enext section, TD%.

Playoff TD Percentage

  1. Troy Aikman - 7.0%
  2. Joe Montana - 6.0%
  3. Dan Marino - 5.6%
  4. Ben Roethlisberger - 5.4%
  5. John Elway - 4.4%
  6. Tom Brady - 3.6%
  7. Peyton Manning 1.0%

Playoff Interception %

Due to the varied nature of total number of games played, I've included on the interception percentages here, versus the total number of interceptions thrown.

  1. Tom Brady - 1.0%
  2. Peyton Manning 1.9%
  3. Troy Aikman - 2.1%
  4. Joe Montana - 3.6%
  5. Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger - 4.3%
  6. John Elway - 4.8%

Playoff Completion Percentage

  1. Troy Aikman - 71.1%
  2. Tom Brady - 62.5%
  3. Ben Roethlisberger - 61.9%
  4. Joe Montana - 60.5%
  5. Dan Marino - 56.0%
  6. John Elway - 51.6%
  7. Peyton Manning - 47.6%

Playoff QB Rating

  1. Troy Aikman - 111.2
  2. Joe Montana - 89.8
  3. Tom Brady - 88.9
  4. Ben Roethlisberger - 87.2
  5. Dan Marino - 79.4
  6. John Elway - 71.8
  7. Peyton Manning - 59.1

Playoff Super Bowl Titles Won

  1. Tom Brady - 3
  2. Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Aikman - 2
  3. Joe Montana - 1
  4. John Elway, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino - 0

Post-Season Statistical Summary

Of these six statistical categories, Ben again proves to make himself at home with this elite list of QBs.  He ranks first again twice, second twice, third once, fourth twice, and fifth once.  Clearly he belongs in the same discussion with these other quarterbacks.

SUMMARY

It's almost silly at this point the lack of respcet Ben receives by fans and the media alike.  There's no question, he's earned the respect that he's been missing.  One of the silliest notions fans mutter is that Ben is great only because of the Steelers defense.  True, the Steelers have had a great defense, but did any of them throw the balls that Ben threw?  No one questioned Montana's supporting cast, or Brady's, or Aikman's - all of whom were necessary to getting their teams to Super Bowl victories.  Ben, as you consider the stats laid out here, is as good a passer (or better) as any of these Hall of Fame quarterbacks at this point in his career.

In fact, based on these numbers alone, you can make the argument that in his first five years, Ben has surpassed the first five year output of Brady in many ways, and certainly all-around has outperformed Peyton's first five years.

Let the media treat the quarterbacks equally and fairly.  Clearly Brady and manning were pre-ordained to be loved.  And for some reasons, Ben was destined to be questioned (as Bradshaw was before him).  But thankfully, numbers do not lie.  Anyone with an objective eye who looks at Ben's performance as compared to these Hall of Fame quarterbacks cannot argue that he doesn't belong among the elite at this point in his young, illustrious career.

 

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