Ben Roethlisberger’s decade-long career is littered with big throws in big games. But which individual game ranks as the best of Roethlisberger’s 143?
There are a number of worthy candidates. Roethlisberger’s got three games in which he’s posted a perfect passer rating (158.3) and two others in which he threw five scoring passes.
In 2009, Ben Roethlisberger posted a career best with 4,328 passing yards. Not only did the team boast a 4,000-yard passer, but they had two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher as well. ’09 marked the first (and only) time in team history that feat had been accomplished.
Were it not for one spectacular showing from Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense, however, they might’ve just missed the mark.
Heading into their Week 15 meeting against the Packers, the Steelers were riding a five-game losing streak and desperately needed a win. On the strength of a franchise-best 503-yard outing from Roethlisberger, they were able to even their record and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
And every one of those 503 yards was absolutely vital.
The game started off with a bang as Roethlisberger hit a then-rookie Mike Wallace for a 60-yard touchdown and an early lead. The deep ball, which traveled 57 yards, was slightly underthrown to the streaking Wallace, but a great adjustment by the wide receiver made that a non-issue.
Things continued in much the same vein through the game’s first half. The Steelers would score and the Packers would answer. But things took a turn in Green Bay’s favor in the second half.
The Steelers continued to eat up huge chunks of yards, but the Packers defense would stiffen when it counted. In turn, the Steelers were limited to field goals and saw their lead decrease when the Packers would answer with touchdowns.
But as soon as the Packers were able to secure their first lead of the game, the Steelers came right back and regained it on Jeff Reed’s third field goal of the game. With time waning, though, the Steelers held a paltry 30-28 lead, hardly secure in a game that had been neck-and-neck to that point.
That lead to one of the most scrutinized decisions of the ’09 season.
Unconfident in his defense, Mike Tomlin opted to go for a surprise on-side kick and take the game’s fate out of their hands. The kick was executed beautifully, but Ike Taylor was flagged for downing the ball just a yard too soon and the Packers took over with excellent field position.
As it so happens, that shortened field might’ve actually played in the Steelers’ favor. Sure, only having to go 39 yards made scoring significantly easier for Rodgers’ Packers, but it also left the Steelers with two minutes to answer back.
As many opponents could attest, giving Ben Roethlisberger the chance to win a game with two minutes on the clock is always a dangerous proposition. And that held true on this Sunday.
On their march to victory, the Steelers faced numerous unfavorable down-and-distance situations, including a 3rd-and-15 and a 4th-and-7. Roethlisberger answered the bell with long completions in both instances, but those pale in comparison to what he faced on the game’s final play from scrimmage.
At the 18-yard-line with three seconds left, the Steelers were faced with their last chance to preserve a shot at a winning season.
Roethlisberger dropped back and was afforded ample time, but few spots to throw. After what seemed like an eternity he launched a strike towards the left side of end zone to Mike Wallace.
Wallace dove to haul in the throw, a beauty that was put where only he had a shot at it, and Steeler Nation roared with elation when they realized he'd caught it.
Wallace’s only two catches on the day came on the first and last plays from scrimmage and both went for scores. But it wasn’t only Wallace who’d be seen as the day’s hero.
No, Roethlisberger’s heroics were at another level on this day. He posted a brilliant stat-line (503 yards, three touchdowns), made the game-clinching throw and outdueled an NFL MVP (Rodgers) in the process.
Making this game an easy choice for Roethlisberger's best.
Author's Note: This is an article series I'm interested in continuing. If there's any (current) players you'd like to see written about, please say so in the comments. And, of course, if you think another game of Roethlisberger's deserves this recognition please voice that in the comments as well.