A quarterback. That’s all the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers needed to complementtheir running attack and punishing defense.
The 6'5", 241-pound quarterback fell to the 11th pick in the 2004 draft after seeing names such as Robert Gallery and Reggie Williams go ahead of him. The Chargers and Giants swapped Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, while the Browns had already signed Jeff Garcia in free agency.
Teams may have been skeptical about Roethlisberger due to his coming from the Mid-American Conference and playing schools such as Akron and Ohio.
However, Roethlisberger was an absolute freak of nature when it came to a kid his size who could maneuver in and out of the pocket as well as he could. It usually took at least two defenders to bring him down. He was also a better passer when he was on the run than when he was a typical drop-back quarterback.
The Steelers knew they needed a quarterback, and Manning and Rivers were already gone. The franchise and fans had suffered through watching quarterbacks such as Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, and Tommy Maddox over the past seven or eight years.
Maddox was a nice story, being a former first round pick of the Broncos and having to settle for the XFL and Arena Football League. However, Maddox was in his early 30s and wasn’t going to be around much longer.
Roethlisberger took over at quarterback in Week Two of 2004 after Maddox was injured against the Baltimore Ravens. He led the Steelers to 14 straight regular season wins and a trip to the AFC Championship game against the Patriots.
Five years later, Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings and is the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise.
That 2004 draft signified the fate of both the Steelers and the Browns. The Steelers got Roethlisberger, and the Browns took Kellen Winslow Jr. out of the University of Miami.
After tearing his knee apart in a 2005 motorcycle accident, Winslow was never the same player he was in college. He played in a Pro Bowl but was a liability as a blocker and often had to push off defenders in order to gain separation. He was traded this past offseason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for second and fifth round draft picks.
Had the Browns selected Roethlisberger instead of Winslow, he probably would have been a failure, since the Browns never had a dominating defense and had a suspect offensive line and running game.
However, it would have prevented the Steelers from picking him, and they may still have four Super Bowl titles today instead of six.