Ben Roethlisberger: With One More Super Bowl Win, Is Big Ben a Hall of Famer?

Dmitriy IoselevichSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 19, 2011

Ben Roethlisberger: With One More Super Bowl Win, Is Big Ben a Hall of Famer?

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    Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has already had a remarkable career. He was drafted 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Miami (OH) University and jumped both Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox on the depth start to become the Steelers' starter by the third week of his rookie season.

    The rest was history as Roethlisberger has become one of football's winningest quarterbacks of all time. Now all that stands between Big Ben and his third Super Bowl ring is the New York Jets and the winner of the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears showdown.

    There's no guarantee that the Steelers can get past either the Jets (who beat up Super Bowl favorites New England) or the Packers (who just plain look unbeatable), but if they do will the win secure Roethlisberger's place in Canton in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame?

    Here are three reason why he will get in, and three reasons why he won't.

Yes, the Numbers

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    Roethlisberger, despite playing just seven seasons in the NFL, is already one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the sport's history.

    He's eighth all-time in QB rating (92.5), fifth in yards per attempt (8.04) and 12th in completion percentage (63.07 percent). His 72-30 career record puts him fourth in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 90 starts.

    He averages over 3,500 yards for a 16-game season and his 144-to-86 career touchdown-interception ratio is one of the best among active quarterbacks. He's also rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in his career and 14 touchdowns. He wins, he performs and he seems to only be getting better, throwing a career-low five interceptions this season.

No, the Other Numbers

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    Roethlisberger may be a prolific passer, but he's hardly perfect. His tendency to scramble outside of the pocket to try to make a play has resulted in Big Ben being one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league.

    The Steelers quarterback has been sacked 274 times in his career, and has lost an incredible 1,821 yards on those players. Roethlisberger has been among the five most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL every year from 2006 to 2009.

    At the same time, he's been ranked in the top 10 in passing or touchdowns only twice in his career, and despite his high completion percentage he's only been in the top 10 of the category four times in his career and never higher than fourth overall. 

    He's also fumbled the ball 45 times, including an NFL-high 14 times in 2008. Roethlisberger may have a big arm, but it's his legs that seem to be causing him trouble. He's not a true double threat like Vick and it's questionable if he can develop into a consistent pocket passer as he ages.

Yes, the Awards

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    Roethlisberger was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 after winning all 13 of his games as a starter, an NFL rookie record. He threw for 2,621 yards and 17 touchdowns with a 98.1 QB rating and 66.4 completion percentage, the latter two setting rookie records.

    He became the youngest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl, taking the Steelers all the way in just his second season in 2005 at the age of 23. He was the second youngest quarterback to ever play in a Super Bowl, behind only Dan Marino.

    He's been named to one Pro Bowl (2007) and he's won two Super Bowls (XL and XLIII).

    Not too shabby for someone who's spent just seven seasons in the NFL and is only 28 years old.

No, the Competition

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    Hall of Fame voters will often look at how a player stacks up against his contemporaries, and unfortunately for Roethlisberger he's playing in a quarterback-heavy era.

    He's not in the same league as Peyton Manning (three MVPs, one Super Bowl) or Tom Brady (two MVPs, three Super Bowls). He's still probably a tier below Drew Brees (five-time Pro Bowler, one Super Bowl), Donovan McNabb (six-time Pro Bowler) and Brett Favre (11-time Pro Bowler, one Super Bowl).

    Then there's a whole slew of players who at least belong in the discussion with Roethlisberger, including Eli Manning (one-time Pro Bowler, one Super Bowl), Philip Rivers (three-time Pro Bowler) and Aaron Rodgers (one-time Pro Bowler). And after that there's the young guns like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Sam Bradford who could challenge Roethlisberger if they keep up their performance for another five to 10 seasons. That's not even to mention Michael Vick!

    Does Roethlisberger honestly deserve the honor of enshrinement above all of these players? The selection committee has to be selective about where they draw the line between great and legendary, and even with another championship Big Ben still falls short.

Yes, the Clutch Performances

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    If you look in the dictionary under "clutch," chances are you'll see a picture of Roethlisberger.

    Big Ben has an uncanny ability to perform at his best when his team needs him the most. He set a rookie record with five comeback wins in the fourth quarter and six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or later. He's led 19 career fourth-quarter comebacks and 25 game-winning drives, easily the most among any quarterback with his experience (for reference, Tom Brady has 23 and 32 respectively in 46 more games).

    He's 9-2 in the playoffs with a 88.7 QB rating (Tom Brady is 14-5 with a 85.7 QB rating). Roethlisberger is an outstanding 25-17 with a 90.9 QB rating and a 63.5 completion percentage in games decided by a touchdown or less. 

    It doesn't matter where he's playing, who he's playing or what the score is. Roethlisberger just has a will to win.

No, the Scandal

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    Roethlisberger hasn't exactly been an angel off the field.

    In 2006 he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident while riding near Pittsburgh. He wasn't wearing his helmet (bad) and didn't have a valid Pennsylvania motorcycle license (worse).

    In 2009, Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting Andrea McNulty in his hotel room in Lake Tahoe during a celebrity golf tournament. The civil suit didn't amount to anything because of reports that the sex was consensual, but what was Ben doing with her in the first place?

    Then in 2010 Roethlisberger allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old student at a Georgia nightclub. He was not charged because of insufficient evidence, but the contact was clearly not innocent. Roethlisberger was reprimanded by his team and was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. 

    Football players have a bit of a reputation for poor behavior with recent incidents by Brett Favre, Braylon Edwards and others garnering serious media attention. But Roethlisberger is the face of the Steelers franchise and should know better.

Final Verdict: Yes or No?

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    In any other era, Roethlisberger's numbers and list of accomplishments would make him a lock for the Hall of the Fame. But the NFL has become a pass-happy league in the past couple of decades and Big Ben is the beneficiary of that. He's definitely not the best active quarterback, but is he even in the top five? The top 10?

    Roethlisberger hasn't done himself any favors with his off-field behavior and that will only further hurt his candidacy in much the same way baseball's alleged steroid users are finding it difficult to get votes for Cooperstown. 

    Plus, voters will have to consider how valuable Roethlisberger really is to the Steelers. That franchise has been built on defense and players like Troy Polamalu and James Harrison and Pittsburgh succeeds by shutting down their opponent, not outscoring them in shootouts. Perhaps Roethlisberger wouldn't have so many comeback wins if he had just played better earlier in the game.

    A third Super Bowl ring will put Roethlisberger on the fence for induction, but that's only assuming he maintains his performance for another five seasons without getting arrested. Both of those seem like pretty big assumptions, especially for a quarterback who relies so much on his legs to do damage. 

    He certainly has a good chance, but right now the answer is no. Tune in again in another two or three years.