The 2009 NFL season has been over for less than a week, and I think I have already read 412 different articles debating this question. Colts fans are quick to throw stats such as regular season winning percentage in Steelers' faces, while Steeler Nation is quick to point to Manning's 9-9 playoff record, and 1-1 Super Bowl record.
Both sides have a great argument. Here are the stats that you will be able to find in just about every article. Out of fairness, we are only comparing the first six years of their careers.
Manning: 167 Tds.
Roethlisberger: 127 Tds.
Manning: 110 Ints.
Roethlisberger: 81 Ints.
Manning: 62.90 %
Manning: 24,885 yards
Roethlisberger: 19,302 yards
Manning: 2,128 Completions
Manning: 3383 Attempts
Roethlisberger: 2411 Attempts
Manning- 2 wins 4 losses
Roethlisberger- 8 wins 2 losses
Thanks to Fritzie J. McBritches; I got those stats from his article, P. Manning Vs Roethlisberger: Who's Better?
By these stats, it is pretty clear that Ben Roethlisberger is the Superior QB to play the position at this point of his young career. This is where Colts fans start jumping up and down screaming that the Steelers were the better team at that point, and Roethlisberger was simply along for the ride.
Were the Steelers REALLY the better TEAM at that point?
Overall Record (Not Playoffs):
Offense Rank (Average):
Indianapolis: Eighth (Colts' offense was ranked 19th in Manning's rookie season. Take that out, they would have been ranked third)
Defensive Rank (Average):
It is CLEAR that in these time periods, the Steelers were the better defensive team, while the Colts were the better offensive team. Both by large margins.
Is that directly related to the players? Lets take a look at how the Colts and Steelers spend their money.
Colts. Offense — $53.65 million, Defense — $28.75 million
Here are the top salaries of the Colts from this past year.
Peyton Manning (QB)—$18.7 million
Bob Sanders (S)—$8.75 million
Robert Mathis (DE)—$6.8 million
Reggie Wayne (WR)—$6.6 million
Ryan Diem (OL)—$6.3 million
Dwight Freeney (DE)—$5.75 million
Jeff Saturday (C)—$5.2 million
Raheem Brock (DT)—$4.72 million
Gary Brackett (LB)—$2.73 million
Dallas Clark (TE)—$2.5 million
Adam Vinatieri (K)—$2.35 million
Steelers. Offense — $37.4 million, Defense — $37.8 million
Ben Roethlisberger (QB)—$8 million
Troy Polamalu (S)—$6.8 million
Hines Ward (WR)—$6.7 million
Max Starks (OL)—$6.6 million
Casey Hampton (DT)—$6.4 million
Ike Taylor (CB)—$5.75 million
Aaron Smith (DE)—$4.75 million
James Farrior (LB)—$4.5 million
Willie Parker (RB)—$4.1 million
Brett Keisel (DE)—$4 million
Ryan Clark (S)—$2.2 million
This makes it clear the Colts spend most of their money on the offensive side of the ball, which would obviously put more talent on the offense. The Steelers evenly distribute the wealth on BOTH sides of the ball.
The Colts spent $53.65 million on offense, where the Steelers spent $37.4 million. That is a $17 million difference. Paying an average of just under $6 million per player, the Steelers could have an additional three Pro Bowlers on the offensive side of the ball. How much better could Roethlisberger's stats be with three Pro Bowl caliber offensive linemen?
It would be enough to close the gap, if not surpass the difference in stats between himself and Manning.