I know, I know. The comments are going to be filled with tasteless jokes and Steelers haters before I even know what hit me.
But as a personal favor to me, how about you at least read the article before deciding you hate it? Deal? Deal.
With the Steelers' win on Saturday against the hated Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger has led the Pittsburgh squad to the AFC Championship Game, his fourth in the past seven years.
Not only that, but he did it with an improbable comeback after facing a 14-point first half deficit against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
The 28-year-old quarterback already has two Super Bowl rings, a career regular season record of 60-26 (.697) and has only missed the playoffs twice in his professional career, where he boasts a record of 9-2. For reference, Peyton Manning has a postseason record of 9-10.
However, when you watch NFL pregame or recap shows, Big Ben is never mentioned in the same breath as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Heck, there are even some who put Tony Romo, Philip Rivers or Drew Brees ahead of Roethlisberger (thank God the Carson Palmer faithful have learned the error of their ways).
Why? Why is Big Ben consistently taken for granted when all he seems to do is win the big game?
Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004 as the third QB picked in the draft (behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers) and made an immediate impact, going 15-0 as a starter his rookie year before finally falling to the mighty Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
The next season, he led the sixth-seeded Steelers on an amazing run through the playoffs, winning away games against the No. 3 seed (Bengals), No. 1 seed (Colts) and No. 2 seed (Broncos) in the AFC before knocking off the NFC's No. 1 seed (Seattle) in the Super Bowl.
He added another Super Bowl in 2008, marching the Steelers 88 yards before throwing a TD pass to Santonio Holmes with only 35 seconds remaining. It was arguably the greatest drive in Super Bowl history, yet it was Holmes who collected the MVP award for that game.
Yet through all this, Big Ben never seems to be accepted into that "elite" group of QBs that includes Manning and Brady. There always seems to be a third wheel that the masses proclaim better than Large Benjamin.
At the beginning it was Carson Palmer, holder of two 4,000-yard seasons before an unexpected flameout. Then it was Tony Romo, fantasy darling but legendary playoff choke artist. Next came Drew Brees, another fantasy favorite who won a grand total of one playoff game before 2009. Now it's either Philip Rivers or Matt Ryan, both guys who put up big fantasy numbers but seem to crumble once January rolls around.
While being one of the greatest fourth quarter QBs in NFL history, Ben is also (with all due respect to Michael Vick) the hardest in the league to sack. A running joke around Pittsburgh has been that Roethlisberger threw the best incomplete pass in Steelers history earlier this year when Terrell Suggs seemed to have him dead to rights.
With the exception of Tom Brady, there is no active quarterback who has won more championships than Ben Roethlisberger. Let me remind you again that Roethlisberger is only 28 years old, just entering his prime and has placed his team in the Final Four of the NFL yet again. To take it a step further, Jim Plunkett is the only QB with more than one championship who is not in the Hall of Fame...could that be Ben's destiny?
If this comes off as a Steelers homer article, then I apologize. Rest assured, however, that Ben isn't just underrated in the national press but here in Pittsburgh as well. At the beginning of this year, some fans were actually calling for Dennis Dixon (Dennis Dixon!) to continue to lead the Steelers after Roethlisberger's four-game suspension.
Trust me—after sitting through Kordell Stewart, Jim Miller, Tommy Maddox and Kent Graham...I know a franchise quarterback when I see one.
Some of you might think of Ben and only think of his off-the-field problems, which I admit are very hard to ignore. Without launching into an argument that none of us can win because no one knows the facts of the case, let's just try to concentrate on Roethlisberger the player rather than Roethlisberger the tabloid story.
The bottom line is Ben Roethlisberger is a winner. Love him or hate him, he constantly delivers the huge play when it is most desperately needed (witness the long bomb to Antonio Brown on 3rd-and-19 last Saturday). He doesn't have the quick release of Manning or the aura around him of Brady, but Roethlisberger is fearless in the face of a pass rush and strikes fear into every defense he lines up against.
With a career playoff record of 9-2, Roethlisberger is only five wins away from tying the all-time record with one team (although Brady will most likely break the record next year). He also already has more rings than anyone not named Brady, Montana, Bradshaw or Aikman. With possibly 10 more seasons to go in his career, it's conceivable that Ben might join those four names...or even pass them.
I'm not ready to punch Roethlisberger's ticket to the Hall of Fame just yet, but if he wins one more title, how can you not?
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