Ben Roethlisberger has two more Super Bowl rings than Aaron Rodgers, but does the jewelry necessarily make him the better quarterback?
Some would instantly say yes. Those opposed would point to the notion that championships alone are not a fair and impartial way of determining a quarterback's effectiveness.
Hardware aside, perhaps it’s time for a thorough side-by-side comparison of the two as we count down to seven days before they face each other in Arlington.
Completion percentage is by no means the ultimate indicator of accuracy. Factors out of the control of a quarterback can affect the number, but for the sake of this particular argument, we’re going with it.
Suspended the first four games of the season, Roethlisberger naturally has a smaller sample size with which to work this season, but his 61.7 completion percentage during the regular season was the third-lowest mark of his seven-year career. Rodgers, on the other hand, completed a career-high 65.7 percent of his passes in 2010, fifth-best in the NFL, and leads all playoff quarterbacks in the category at 71 percent.
Furthermore, Rodgers has completed better than 63 percent of his passes in each of his first three seasons as the Green Bay starter, and the rate has improved with each year. That’s something that Roethlisberger, whose percentage has fluctuated from season to season, cannot claim.
Not much to think about here, though the margin of victory for Roethlisberger is far narrower than it should be.
Troy Polamalu may be Pittsburgh’s heart and soul, but the offense runs through Roethlisberger, whose character and reputation as a leader have taken some blows with the recent pair of sexual assault allegations brought against him. The Steelers’ 3-1 start this season showed the team can get by without the services of its quarterback, but the Pittsburgh has a different aura when Big Ben is under center.
And the same can be said of the Packers and Rodgers, who is just now beginning to make the team truly his. Matt Flynn performed admirably in his lone start this season, but Green Bay’s offense lacked guidance and a calming influence in that game in New England. Rodgers provides both, but he is now just starting to do so on a regular basis.
Rodgers is visibly the more fleet of foot, but mobility in football is a relative term, often defined by the ability to elude defenders, not necessarily outrun them.
If we’re using that particular criterion, this has got to be a draw. Rodgers is fast developing a reputation for being one of the league’s best at utilizing his legs. He ran for a career-high 356 yards during the regular season and has recorded a pair of rushing touchdowns this season.
Roethlisberger, at 6’5” and 241 pounds, will never resemble a hurdler, but he is arguably the best outside of Michael Vick at evading pressure and making plays beyond the tackle box. He also rushed for 176 yards in the regular season, second-most of his seven seasons, including a career-long 31-yard dash.
Not to be confused with mobility, awareness in the pocket is comprised of so much more than simply avoiding a pass rush. Remaining calm in the face of fire is a prerequisite of being a great quarterback, which is why so few players pull it off.
Even fewer exude it more often than these two.
Rodgers was sacked 19 fewer times this regular season than last, which is a clear indication of an improvement made by the Green Bay offensive line, but the differential (50-31) also speaks to the quarterback’s maturation. Like most quarterbacks, Rodgers will exit the pocket perhaps sooner than he should from time to time, but in his third full season he has really begun to understand when to stay versus when to go.
It’s not always pretty, but the seasoned Roethlisberger is in the upper echelon when it comes to pocket presence. His nimble feet allow him to slide to left or right and from back to front, and his large frames enables him to shed defenders consistently, leading to extended plays and second chances for the Pittsburgh offense.
Both players are among the best in terms of poise and delivering a throw under duress, but at this stage, Roethlisberger gets the nod.
Both have suffered concussions, only to return to the field soon thereafter. Roethlisberger suffered head trauma in a motorcycle accident. Together, he and Rodgers have been concussed at least five times from action on the field -- Rodgers twice this season alone.
There have been nicks and cuts. Pulls and sprains. Roethlisberger took a pretty good shot to the thigh on the opening drive of the AFC Championship. Rodgers bled from his mouth after Chicago’s Julius Peppers treated him like a tackling dummy in the NFC title game.
Big Ben’s got the longer career and thus the longer laundry list of injuries. Rodgers isn’t exactly paper maché, but he’s not constructed from the same armor as Roethlisberger, nor his Hall of Fame predecessor.
In a battle of subjectivity, Roethlisberger wins.
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