The Ben Roethlisberger Bias: Why the Steelers QB Is Underrated but Shouldn't Be

Joshua Hayes@@JayPHayes1982Correspondent IIJune 19, 2011

The Ben Roethlisberger Bias: Why the Steelers QB Is Underrated but Shouldn't Be

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Ben Roethlisberger entered the NFL in one of the most dynamic rookie seasons in sports history.  In seven years with the Steelers, he's put fingerprints on three Lamar Hunt Trophies and won two Super Bowls. 

    Yet, to hear much of the public perception about "Big Ben," you'd think that his career would be labelled as "Big Bust." Clearly, that notion is ridiculous. 

    Make no mistake, though.  Roethlisberger's talent and elite NFL quarterback status are overlooked by many.  Sadly, this bad judgment is not limited to the fans.

    On "The NFL's Top 100 Players of 2011," his NFL peers rated Roethlisberger #41 in a countdown of the best players in the league.  His numerical ranking is not the issue.  It's his placement relative to less accomplished signal-callers that raises curious eyebrows.  This was just another event in a history of underrating a great quarterback. 

    Beyond Brady, Brees, Manning, and Rodgers, nobody eclipses Ben. Yet, with six quarterbacks left on the list, speculation indicates that Philip Rivers, in addition to Michael Vick will be ranked higher than the two-time champion.  With no other dark horse quarterback worthy of such an elite placement, the ranking is simply unwarranted.... and wrong.

    Unlike a normal trial (where evidence is used to make a decision), this case sees a jury of his peers guilty of undervaluing the quarterback.  He has had an immensely positive impact on a vastly successful NFL franchise that could not win championships before his arrival.  No differently, the fine court of public opinion seems to have the notion that Ben is somehow overrated.

    Steelers fans and rivals go back and forth regarding where the bias lies.  One side indicates his championship caliber, and the rebuttal is his supporting cast.  Steelers fans dispute that he's never had an all-pro offense around him.  No athlete has a legendary career without a great supporting cast.  Yet, the real issue is that the numbers simply do not lie.

    Ben is a championship-level quarterback.

    Many quarterbacks win the volume race, your fantasy football game, and earn the "Scott Mitchell: See? 4,000 Yards in a Season Does Not Equate to Greatness" trophy.  Few of those are nearly as talented as Roethlisberger.

    It is clear that a large portion of fans do not consider Roethlisberger in the upper plateau of signal-callers.  That's fine; the Steelers will keep winning games with their Hall of Fame quarterback. 

    Still, I'd be remiss not to provide the proper evidence to demonstrate Ben's greatness and attempt to explain the logic behind his devaluation. 

    What is it that makes Ben great?  And, if so, why do many fans see things differently? 

The Impact of Fantasy Football

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    No gentlemen, not the type of fantasy football pictured above... (sigh!).

    Today's fans think big "numbers" equate to great performance.

    I can imagine most fans reading are saying, "Nah, c'mon, Bubs, we know better n'at."  If so, this argument isn't for you.  But trust me:

    Many fans don't know better "n'at."  Many young fans (and some old ones who have lost touch) think big passing numbers are the key to great quarterbacking.  

    In fact, we're told to believe it.   After all, we have the Manning Brothers pictured here at a "Fantasy Football Training Camp."  .

    Fantasy-wise, I guess we forgot to give Kyle Orton and Carson Palmer their MVP nominations.

    Truthfully, fantasy football has been a great blessing for NFL fans.

    They have more incentive to familiarize themselves with multiple teams and players.  Very simply, they interact with each other, compete, and have fun.

    Best of all, the nature of the point accumulation system makes many more NFL games relevant, with key players participating in contests throughout the weekly football landscape.

    That said, not everything is great about it.

    Especially with younger fans, I've noticed that less attention goes into the details of how games are won and lost, the fantasy focus being on yards and individual incentives.  The logic is that big numbers indicate big performances, which is accurate on the cyber-landscape, not the gridiron.

    Beyond ignorance regarding team concepts, the volume-driven fantasy football statistics provide young fans their only notion to a players' credibility.  Make no mistake- with exceptions, a young generation of football nit-wits have no clue of team concept or how to accurately gage individual performance.

    I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Roethlisberger sucks.  I had him on my freakin' fantasy team and he threw for 185 yards and only had a touchdown...."

    On many of those days, Ben completed 18 of 20 passes and moved the Steelers offense with consistency.

    The Pittsburgh offense is predicated on balance, but the Steelers championship aspirations depend on having a great quarterback.  The myth of using the run to set up the pass is fraudulent, and having to honor Ben's arm makes the Steelers offense that much better. 

    Roethlisberger has given the Steel City consistency on offense it had never seen for the majority of the Bill Cowher era, though their style of play hasn't always placed the quarterback on any fantasy football leaderboards. 

Big Ben Has Big Number Potential

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    In the past, depending on the offensive scheme and game situation, Roethlisberger could be selective about throwing the football.  As the young quarterback continued to build on his early aplomb, the leash was removed, and Roethlisberger became more of a centerpiece for the offense. 

    Today, it's not odd to see the Steelers passing more than running.  The versatile quarterback can play it both ways.  He has the humility to forego volumizing statistics for the sake of smart football, and he has....

    THE CANNON ARM to put up gargantuan numbers when the playcalling dictates it or when he has to do it.

    The best offenses can win in a variety of ways, and versatility is the mark accompanying most championship squads.  Ben's played on offenses that focus on balance, but he is more than capable of taking the reins.

    "Big Ben" came in his rookie year and did manage the team, but he was also able to rally Pittsburgh in moments that called for it.  Not every play saw Roethlisberger serving as the conduit that kept a strong defensive and great running game in the championship hunt. 

    Trailing the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, he had two comebacks on 4th quarter drives in which his opponents knew to put their focus on the passing game. 

    In other words, his humility allows him to win by playing in a team system.  His talent allows for him to step outside of the team concept and take chances other quarterbacks cannot.  The rewards outweight the benefits. 

    Yet, it's his awesome skill set, a list of attributes on par with the game's best, that have served him well when he has had to put the team on his shoulders and rack up numbers in pinball fashion.

    He's proven his ability to break from the "game management mold" with seasons of 30+ touchdowns and 4,000 yards passing.

    Some of the best quarterbacks seasons are marked by average season numbers.  Look at Troy Aikman, who threw for 20 touchdowns once, for proof that great quarterbacks aren't viewed by statistics alone.

    In any given game, a quarterback could be called upon to carry his team.  Roethlisberger has a plethora of marvels, including a 500-yard passing day and a 5 touchdown first-half performance against the Baltimore Ravens.

    He is one of only ten quarterbacks to throw for 500 yards in one game.  Far fewer have 5 touchdowns in a half.

The Impact of Ben's Arrival in 2004 and Return in 2010

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs for a second quarter touchdown against the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Steelers fans remember the 1997-98 AFC Championship Game vividly. 

    After the Broncos took a 24-14 halftime lead with two stunning touchdowns in the final minutes of the first half, Pittsburgh drove down the field, running plays in rapid succession for bulk yardage.

    A field goal would cut the lead to a touchdown, while a touchdown would give the Steelers back the momentum they needed.

    Images of Kordell Stewart's throw into triple coverage at the back of the endzone cause fans to shake their heads. 

    The reaction to the costly turnover elicits a one-word response that mostly describes Stewart's tenure in Pittsburgh:  "Doh!" 

    How many Super Bowls would the franchise have won with a championship caliber quarterback earlier in the Cowher era?

    To rephrase:  How many would they have won with Big Ben?

    A popular saying goes, "If if's and but's were candies and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas."  The holidays came early in 2004, as Roethlisberger took the helm, erasing "what if's" with championship aspirations and, eventually, the Lombardi Trophy.

    By 2010, the Steelers had won two Super Bowls with Big Ben, but his suspension casted a shadow of doubt about his character.  

    While the quarterback lost the support of many faithful followers, his skill set returned to the line-up in Week 6 of the NFL season. 

    The Steelers were 3-1 without him, causing the layman to believe Pittsburgh could win without him.  In  a manner, they are correct.

    They would win.

    The most aware NFL fans know, however, that Ben is the key to the franchise's annual pursuit of excellence. 

    After watching the offense struggle mightily  to start 2010 (with the exception of veteran Charlie Batch's performance against Tampa Bay), Steelers fans at Heinz Field witnessed Roethlisberger's three touchdown passes in a return against the Browns.  Sure, it was Cleveland, but the team couldn't move the sticks against the Titans, whose pass defense has leaks like a colander.

    The Steelers would go to the Super Bowl for the third time with Ben under center, a feat that only one current quarterback in the NFL can boast.

The Legendary Rookie Broke NFL Records

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 24:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is seen after being selected 11th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2004 NFL Draft on April 24, 2004 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Quarterbacks, regardless of the team around them, simply don't come off the bench raw and have the type of success that Roethliberger did in 2004.

    Refute it if you'd like, but Ben's rookie season was legendary.

    Fifteen consecutive wins, sixteen consecutive regular season victories, and eighteen straight victories over teams not called the Patriots.

    That's how he began his career.

    With hardly any time to evaluate the position from his intended mentor, Tommy Maddox, Big Ben came into the fold immediately.  Maddox's injury, while unfortunate for the NFL's former Comeback Player of the Year, opened the door for a magical ride led by a great rookie.

    After his first start during the aftermath of Hurricane Jeanne in Miami, the Steelers offense saw great success under Roethlisberger.  The height of his potential became plainly evident in a game against (who else?) the Browns.  Ben scrambled to the right, buying time for his receivers to break from their coverage, and hit Plaxico Burress down the right sidelines for a touchdown bomb that sent Heinz Field into a frenzy.

    By the confluence of the three rivers, things seemed to be coming together perfectly. 

    The Steelers snapped the Patriots 21-game winning streak, then disposed of the eventual NFC-Champion Eagles, 27-3.

    Ben led a comeback in the final minutes against Jacksonville and New York (Giants).  His defense aided him, and the offensive line was still solid (a staple of the Cowher era).  Yet, it was evident to any plain eye that Roethlisberger was difference from his predecessors. 

    Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Neil O'Donnell, Tommy Maddox, Kent Graham.

    Ben eclipsed them immediately, only to eventually fall short to the great New England Patriots and their ace Tom Brady.  If Ben was the hero that would lead Pittsburgh to a fifth championship, Brady and the Pats were the glowing, green rock that simply made him hiccup.

    After a stellar rookie campaign, Ben opened up in his sophomore season and the subsequent NFL playoffs.  He out-dueled the Brothers Manning, Sr. (not Archie) in Indianapolis and led Pittsburgh to the Lamar Hunt Trophy at Mile High Stadium.

    The rookie who couldn't lose eventually did, but Pittsburgh is still a winner for acquiring a great quarterback who propelled the team to a championship caliber right off of the bench.

Big Money Statistic: Yards Per Attempt

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    ST. LOUIS - DECEMBER 20:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scrambles as he passes the ball against the St. Louis Rams on December 20, 2007 at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Roethlisber's passer rating is in the top 20 of all-time quarterbacks.  People put too much stock in the rating system.  It's a skewed statistic that's been adjusted by many experts.  In fact, most adjustments to the current formula inflate Roethlisberger's numbers beyond his current elite 92.5 figure.

    While 11 of the top 20 all-time highest-rated quarterbacks never won a Super Bowl, 8 of the elite 10 did win championships.  Philip Rivers is listed as the second-highest rated quarterback ever and he's won a total of two post-season games, both against another chronic January joke- Peyton Manning.

    So, rating isn't everything, but it is something.  Let's consider Ben's other numbers:

    Ben's completion percentage is almost always 60% or better (63% career), easily meeting the standard regarding accuracy.

    While he is considered a gunslinger, he has a touchdown to interception ratio of 2:1, discluding his injury-plagued 2006 campaign.  Brett Favre, the proclaimed greatest of all gunslingers, had only 1.5 touchdowns to every interception thrown.

    These are all great numbers.  Nevertheless, one number eclipses all of these statistics for its correlation to winning championships.

    Yards per attempt.

    Passer rating boasts 8 champions and 14 titles in its top ten.

    Yards per attempt?  All the same, but a decidedly different list of athletes- with 20 championships.

    You can argue as much as you'd like, but the magnitude of this statistic is NFL history.

    This is a pure statistic, the type that make the true fans of the game salivate.  It's about efficiency, not empty yardage or ambiguous calculations.

    In other words, throw out the offensive scheme.   Forget about how many times the quarterbacks drop back or how many total yards they accumulate.

    How successful is the quarterback, on average, every time he throws the ball? 

    Ben is by far the most devastating active quarterback in this regard, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt.

    Brady doesn't even crack the top 20 all-time, while Manning ranks highly with 7.7 yards per attempt.

    The only quarterbacks Ben trails in this key statistic are Otto Graham, Sid Luckman, and Y.A. Tittle, who combined to play in 16 NFL Championship Games. 

    With Ben, the top four have played in 19 championships, winning better than half the time (11).

    This category is about more than hard numbers.  It's about the criticism regarding Ben's style. 

    This is the payoff for "holding the ball."  While Roethlisberger opts to keep the football in his possession to allows "plays to develop," the strategy can backfire.  Yet, for his habit, it's amazing that he often gets sacked fewer than a few times per game.

    The benefit of the added time is it allows receivers to find defensive "soft-spots" otherwise unavailable on initial reads.  How many times has Ben made a huge play after playing the role of "Track Meet Oak Tree" in the pocket? 

    It all adds up to a quarterback whose potential to inflict damage on any given play is higher than each of his active peers.

NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2011"

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    PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 11:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers stands on the field dejected after they lost 35-24 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvani
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    As mentioned, current NFL players took part in a poll used to determine their top-ranked peers heading into the 2011 season.

    The poll doesn't account for ambiguity regarding the measurement (all-time accomplishments vs. 2011 potential).  It also involves elements of rivalry and potential bias.  This is not an excuse that should be used to discredit the rankings, as all players deal with these factors.

    The largest factor is that players, occupied on Sundays and during the week with games and preparation, largely don't see the full spread of action that most sports journalists and former players observe.  As such, their opinions could be persuaded by general public perceptions.

    As mentioned, I don't feel Ben's ranking at #41 is diminishing.  It's his placement behind his peers that shows undeserved devaluation.

    The network revealed that six additional quarterbacks will be unveiled on the countdown. 

    Most fans would place the following quarterbacks ahead of Ben (my thoughts in parentheses):

    1. Tom Brady (Obviously, the best quarterback in the game today.)

    2. Aaron Rodgers (I agree, but this is bound to fall without more immediate success.)*

    3. Peyton Manning (Agreed, but value rapidly falling.)*

    4. Drew Brees (Too high.  Ben has more favorable attributes.)*

    5. Roethlisberger

                         *-in any given order

    Yet, two other quarterbacks will rank ahead of him.  Most of the panel responding to the countdown feel these spots will be filled by Michael Vick and Philip Rivers.

    Michael Vick and Philip Rivers should not be rated ahead of Ben Roethlisberger by any reasonable person.  Not without more evidence.

    In a sports culture that devalues players for having supporting casts, Philip Rivers gets knocked for playing with Antonio Gates and LaDanian Tomlinson during his best years.  Aside from the Colts, whose number the Chargers seem to have, Rivers has never won a playoff game.

    He had the top ranked offense and defense in 2010.  That's the ultimate supporting cast.  Yet, he has 0 Conference Championships, 0 Super Bowls, and ZERO credibility for being ranked ahead of Roethlisberger.  With pieces clearly in place, the Chargers have accomplished little in the past five seasons post-December. 

    Did I mention Rivers' Chargers have lost three consecutive contests against the Roethlisberger's Steelers?

    As for Vick, he's a dynamic athlete.  Let's compare some numbers:

    Two quarterbacks. 

    Quarterback A is an electrifying athlete.  His resume:

    -Completion Percentage (55%), 19,000 all-purpose yards, an 80.2 quarterback rating, 93 touchdowns, 58 interceptions, 6.9 yards per attempt, no conference championships to-date.

    Quarterback B is a well-rounded gunslinger.  His resume: 

    -Completion Percentage (63%), 23,000 passing yards, 92.5 quarterback rating (two seasons over 100), 114 touchdowns, 86 interceptions, 8.0 yards per attempt, 3-time AFC Champion, 2-time Super Bowl Champion

    Hint: do not use common sense or winning as your litmus test for ranking these two quarterbacks.

    Vick, who spent the majority of his career mired in the stigma of a "running quarterback who could not throw," spent 75% of the 2010 NFL season redeeming himself.  The Eagles flew to the top of the NFC East.  Yet, in this lone dynamic passing season, Philadelphi's feathers were ruffled in December and January, as the controversial quarterback fell from the sky and back down to Earth. 

    For his three months of revival, Vick apparently transformed himself into a talent superior than a quarterback with a 92.5 career rating and two rings.


    Fans can take solace in the fact that the majority of the viewing public isn't so stupid.



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    CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 09:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 and Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during their season opening game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Septmber 9, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Ben won championships in 2005 and 2008, but 2007 can easily be argued as his finest statistical season.

    No, he didn't play in the K-Gun.  Nor did he have Randy Moss plucking footballs out from the clouds.  He didn't throw for 4,000 yards, a feat he accomplished in other seasons.

    The offense that Pittsburgh runs can often mask the greatness of the man under center.  The 2007 season saw chips fall into place.  Ben's finest campaign showcased his greatness- - and he only threw 25 passes per game.  The year demonstrated Roethlisberger's role in the Steelers offense while disspelling any myths regarding his role as a mere "game manager."

    With established receiver Hines Ward, Ben developed chemistry with eventual Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes.  Willie Parker led the league in rushing before an injury, creating great offensive balance.

    With continuity around him, Ben's standard (and elite) 90+ rating skyrocketed to over 104, and his 32 touchdowns reflected a passing offense.  Yet, it was a balanced offense with an amazingly efficient passer, the ratio of run and pass plays being a near-perfect 50:50.  

    I can hear the nay-sayers, referencing the running game as their argument to the contrary, somehow implying that the impact of the running game negates Roethlisberger's great season.  Yet, what would they have the Steelers to do- -not run?  If the mark of a great quarterback is to ignore the running game in pursuit of big numbers, my advise to Ben would be: run!

    Ben knows the mark is efficiency and winning.  He does it in grand fashion, a perceived "gun-slinger" that wins most of his battles. 

    For those that reference the weight of his supporting cast, it should be noted that Roethlisberger has thrown no fewer than 25 times per game since his sophomore season, leading the Steelers to four consecutive home playoff victories that fans from the 1990's can only envy.  Yet, 2007 ended with a home playoff defeat to Jacksonville, the last Steelers loss in a home playoff contest.

    With a 104.7 quarterback rating and 32 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, Roethlisberger was both a team player and a statistical phenom.  Unfortunately, the 2007 Steelers defense played uncharacteristically down the stretch.

    While Roethlisberger would agree that 2007 means nothing without the Lombardi Trophy, it proved that a great quarterback doesn't have to predominantly pass to have an elite NFL season.  Ben's ability to lead touchdown drives and a register confident numbers can be refuted by nobody, not in 2007 and rarely with the game on the line. 

    In that season, Ben proved that he's more than just a lucky game manager with a big arm.  He's a deadly weapon, numbers temptered only by his own willingness to put the team concept ahead of his own statistics. 




The AFC North: Ohio and Old Ohio

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    When quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played his college football amidst loud cheers and success in Miami, Ohio, he could be thankful that fans are not psychic.  Otherwise, his application to the school may have been rejected.

    In his NFL career, Roethlisberger has made Ohio a stomping ground, much like another distinctly renowned quarterback who wore the number 7.

    The Bengals and Browns have struggled for the better part of Ben's reign in Pittsburgh, but they've both had mildly successful moments, only to be defused by a former native son.  And why not?

    If the old adage serves as true, fans should not that Roethlisberger has "beaten the opponents that he should."

    Through 2008, Big Ben posted a 12-0 career mark as an NFL starter in the state of Ohio.  

    Games included lopsided victories, such as 27-13 over the Bengals in their competitive 2005 season.  That same year, the Steelers beat Cincinnatti in the playoffs, 31-17.  It was the same season in which a trip to Cleveland saw a 41-0 Steelers romp.

    After ending the Bengals season on an overtime slant pattern thrown perfectly to a streaking Santonio Holmes in the 2006 finale, the Steelers opened 2007 with a 34-7 win up by Lake Erie. 

    The "Dawg Pound" could finally bark in 2009, as the Steelers at last fell with Ben at the helm in Ohio.  The Bengals had also defeated Pittsburgh earlier that season. 

    Yet, if 2009 saw Ohio having a high, 2010 ought as well have been dubbed O-high-low, as the state fell again to their NFL bane.

    A 27-21 win in Cincinnati and 41-9 demolition in Cleveland reestablished Steelers dominance just west of Pennsylvania. 

    Make no mistake that any fan of football in Ohio knows the name Ben Roethlisberger, for better or for far, far worse.

    In Maryland, the Ravens are "Old Ohio."  The former Browns are the Steelers greatest modern rival.  The contests are savage affairs. 

    But Ben can win the gritty games, too.

    Roethlisberger threw 5 touchdowns in the first half of Monday Night Football, embarrassing Baltimore in 2007. 

    The Ravens drafted Joe Flacco to provide an infusion of talent at the most key position; Flacco is 0-6 head-to-head vs. Big Ben.  Roethlisberger has won 7 consecutive starts against the Steelers' arch-rival.

    With Joe Flacco's cannon arm and an elite set of receivers (Heap, Boldin, Mason), the Ravens were the pick of most experts to win the AFC North in 2010.  Yet, Baltimore fell to 0-2 in the playoffs against Pittsburgh.  Ray Lewis and Company may have avoided a trip to the Steel City, but for the second time in three seasons, a late Roethlisberger touchdown pass essentially secured the AFC North title in Baltimore.

    Yet, these results are small potatoes compared to the following trivia.

    Since 2004, Baltimore's record against Pittsburgh when Ben is not starting?  5-0.

Some Gunslingers Keep Their Feet: The Intangibles

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    Football has a term for quarterbacks that won't give up on any play:  gunslinger.

    Some gunslingers get in their shots, only to ultimately stitch their own wounds. 

    Consider Brett Favre post-1996, which represents about 80% of his career.  This was a quarterback whose playoff appearances came with interceptions at the worst possible moments, and for all of his regular season valor, he was the Peyton Manning that ESPN never called out.

    Gunslinging Favre required a lot of gauze in January, the final shot fired from Tracy Porter in New Orleans to end the Vikings' 2009 Super Bowl aspirations.

    For all of Brett's records, he also boasts a lot of stats that are unenviable.

    In that way, let's just call a spade exactly what it is.  All longevity aside, Ben is Favre 2.0.  It's his awareness of situations that separates him from the ramblin' and gamblin' of the Packers legend.   Unlike Favre, Roethlisberger doesn't throw away post-season after post-season.

    In fact, that is only one of Ben's great intangible strengths.

    Yes, Ben holds onto the ball.  Sure, he's a gunslinger.  Absolutely, he has his critics and his flesh wounds.  Fans remember 2008, when the eventual champion Steelers lost to both Manning brothers at Heinz Field.  Against the Colts, Roethlisberger's go-for-broke mentality cost the Steelers a victory.

    Yet, in the most critical moments, when the most important games are in the balance, Ben doesn't have as much as a gun powder burn.  In fact, it's likely he doesn't even smell the cordite after he pulls the trigger. 

    Super Bowl XL was the perfect example.  He threw a critical interception that turned a potential 21-3 lead into a 14-10 advantage.  He had a subpar performance.  However, earlier in the game, he showcased an awareness and aplomb that second year quarterbacks should not possess.

    With third-and-long in Seattle territory, Ben escaped pressure and began to run to his left.  He could have picked up a few yards to set up a game-tying field goal.  These situations are based on results, which mark the difference between the heroes and the zeroes.  In a full scramble, Ben stopped inches short of the line of scrimmage to reassess the play.

    A long pass to Hines Ward set up the Super Bowl's first touchdown (albeit controversial).

    In Super Bowl XLIII, the eyes in the back of Ben's head served him well on a final drive that saw Arizona red circling the quarterback like a yield of hungry sharks.  Nevertheless, hammerheads they were not, as Roethlisberger evaded the Cardinals on a number of key plays.  We all know how it ended.

    Earlier in that same post-season, Roethlisberger his Santonio Holmes with an amazing pass while under pressure (video above, 2:20), and Holmes scored a crucial offensive touchdown.  Impressively, the ball was thrown where only Holmes could make a play.

    As intangibles are concerned, words like "oak tree" are used to describe Ben in the pocket.  Yet, for his size being an advantage, he can showcase great agility. 

    An incredible play came in the 2006 Divisional Playoffs in Indianapolis, when Ben tackled Nick Harper on what appeared to be an open lane to the endzone. 

    The good quarterback makes most of the throws. 

    The great quarterback makes all of the throws

    The Hall-of-Fame quarterback makes all of the throws and has that extra knack. 

    He doesn't make foolish decisions at critical junctures, and he possesses the intangibles that distinguish him from his peers.

    Roethlisberger's x-factor gives him the it-factor.

The "Anti-Steelers Steelers Bias"

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Pittsburgh Steelers fan David Neft of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania poses for a photo outside the stadium prior to Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Every NFL team has a contingent of fans that root against their success.  Even Arizona is loathed by somebody.

    The Steelers are simply not the Cardinals in one key respect: there's little middle ground among fan loyalties. 

    Some teams are either loved or hated: Cowboys, Raiders, and Steelers to name a few.

    Being a Pittsburgh Steeler automatically places his faults under the microscope, and Ben's personal conduct certainly awards him no handicap from the harsh public eye. 

    There's a definite anti-Steelers bias working against Ben. 

    Despite that fact, I'd argue the largest bias against Ben originates from the remarks of Steelers fans themselves.  The opinions that emanate from Western Pennsylvania have a negative impact on Roethlisberger's perceived value.

    Make no mistake- Steelers fans are among the most loyal, passionate fans in football.  The exception is the quarterback.  As signal callers are concerned, Pittsburgh fans are their own "New York Times."  Did I mention Steelers fans are among the most vocal in football?

    It's a love and hate dynamic largely resulting from being spoiled.  Steelers fans are superb, but the city is harsh on QB's. 

    There's a fine line between hero and zero in NFL cities, and Pittsburgh's relationship with quarterbacks only narrows that gap.

    Who could blame Steelers fans for loathing Neil O'Donnell after a Super Bowl XXX meltdown?  Yet, despite having the lowest interception percentage in league history before his departure, Steelers fans will always remember Neil as "the quarterback that threw the interceptions."  O'Donnell's return would have been marked by scathing criticism, so he brilliantly avoided it by going to New York. 

    Great move, Neil.  Or maybe he went for the "mucho deniro..."

    Even dating back to Terry Bradshaw, Steelers fans were bitterly reactive to mistakes.  The relationship drew Terry into seclusion from the city he bestowed a dynasty upon.  He avoided Pittsburgh for two decades.

    In the current day, Ben Roethlisberger brought immediate winning and Super Bowl aspirations.  Steelers fans have come to expect this result, often forgetting the endings with Kordell Stewart.

    Local radio best illustrates the fan perspective.  At his best, Roethlisberger is glorified, vitrolic fans spitting at the notion of Ben as anything short of sublime.

    They argue in the off-season with fans who do not place Ben in the top 5 of current NFL quarterbacks, but they are just as guilty.  

    For all of his success and play-making ability, Ben is capable of error like any other quarterback.  Given his style of play, fans in Pittsburgh often overrate his flaws, unwilling to take the bad with the good.

    "He holds onto the ball too long."

    "He throws critical interceptions."

    "He can't read defenses."

    As a gunslinger (Favre 2.0), Ben has delivered the second era of championship football to the Steelers.  Yet, fans seem to forget this with any fourth quarter interception.

    Mostly great and rarely bad, Ben's habits take on the veneer of flaws by a public conditioned to think he plays the game incorrectly.  His style may be non-traditional, but he wins.  The end result is greatness.

    Steelers fans tend to lose sight of their quarterbacks' strengths, and the public follows suit.


Just Win, Baby: Success and Championships

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    HOLLYWOOD - JULY 12:  Pittsburgh Steelers players Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward shows off their Super Bowl rings at the 2006 ESPY Awards at the Kodak Theatre on July 12, 2006 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
    Vince Bucci/Getty Images

    Ben's 69 wins in his first seven seasons are second only to Tom Brady's 70, a statistic that includes a four-game layoff in 2010.  In fact, no quarterback won more games in his first five seasons than Roethlisberger.

    The real money-time for quarterback legacies rests in January. 

    Roethlisberger boasts a 10-3 postseason record, the highest winning percentage in the NFL amongst quarterbacks who have played in at least four postseasons or greater than five postseason games.

    He's beaten Peyton Manning in Hoosier-ville (in January), Philip Rivers in three consecutive contests (and 4 of 5, including a playoff victory), and the Baltimore Ravens, twice in the postseason. 

    Aside from a loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV, only Tom Brady and the Patriots have proven to be the golden horse in the City of Troy (Polamalu) during Roethlisberger's tenure.

    Nobody will argue that Aaron Rodgers' is cut from a rare cloth (or cheese-shaped cap) and Brady is deserving of the highest ranking in today's NFL quarterbacking fraternity.

    Aside from those two, the debate can rage.  Peyton Manning has great volume numbers, but is largely inefficient in the postseason.  He had more interceptions that touchdowns in his lone championship run.  Drew Brees is a dynamic passer, but he's also lost in the post-season with two great clubs and doesn't possess many of 'Berger's intangibles.

    Nevertheless, it's only fair to accept those two being ranked ahead of Roethlisberger as a valid point; they have rings.

    For a quarterback with great statistics and two Super Bowl rings, you'd swear the Steelers signed Trent Dilfer after he'd won with the Ravens in 2000.  Let's get something straight: Dilfer is no Big Ben, nor are a few other quarterbacks who are commonly ranked alongside Roethlisberger.

    The list of quarterbacks with two Super Bowl rings is few:

    Aikman, Bradshaw, Montana, Plunkett, Brady, Starr, Staubach, Griese, Simms, Elway.   You can take Simms off of the list for multiple Super Bowl wins as a starting quarterback.

    From there, those with two rings and at least three appearances grows slimmer:

    Aikman, Brady, Bradshaw, Montana, Staubach, Elway, and Griese

    Clearly, the next step for Roethlisberger is to win another Super Bowl to be on a list of five members: the "Three or More Rings Club."  And, how many of those threw a winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of the big game?

    As the lone active quarterback that is a single championship from such a feat, Ben is in a rare class of NFL starters: sure-fire Hall of Famer.

The Franchise's Loyalty to an All-Time Great Quarterback

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    Accused of sexual assault for the second time, Steelers fans watched Roethlisberger's actions and heard his words.  The public image of the accomplished quarterback was that of an immature person.  It was actually worse than that; he was considered by many to be a societal menace.

    After taking the microphone to apologize to the fans and issue a statement of innocence, his disheveled look was critiqued, from his five o'clock shadow to his greasy hair.  Every qualitative element of his being was dissected. 

    In the days that followed, the franchise took a public image brick straight to the face.  The quarterback was suspended for four-six games, pending behavioral components and interventions. 

    Even former Steelers Terry Bradshaw headed a witch hunt, torch lit, more than eager to put the current Steelers quarterback in his place.

    The Steelers have had a no tolerance policy regarding personal conduct.  Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes was released from the team for violating the NFL's drug policy, though murmurings indicated he had become a distraction in the locker room.

    Now, after releasing a star receiver for behavior detrimental to the game and unbecoming of the Steelers, the Rooney's had a decision:

    Should he stay or should he go?

    Speculation was rampant, but the answer was always obvious to anybody with a sense of NFL history.

    Despite the media circus, claims of violence, and possible deviance that was displayed by Roethlisberger the man, Ben the quarterback would stay in town.  

    The public cried, "Hypocrisy!"  In fact, they were right.  It was. 

    No matter, the Steelers made the decision they had to make for the business on one key factor:

    Quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger come once in a generation.  Period.

    For all of his faults, Big Ben has propelled Pittsburgh to championships, erasing additional years of heartaches and "almost's" that would have occurred in his absence.

    The numbers are hard to quantify considering the Steelers' offensive philosophy, but the quantitative evidence is there for those willing to properly evaluate of Roethlisberger as an elite quarterback.

    To dump Ben is to dump championships, as a simple equation indicates.  Roethlisberger=Lombardi Trophy. 

    View the human being in whatever light you choose, but the quarterback is elite. 

    Women deserve to be treated with respect.  And, Ben may or may not have been predatory.  He was definitely dumb. 

    But, as a quarterback, his abilities are so great that he was never going to leave Pittsburgh.  There are 32 starting quarterbacks at a given time in the NFL.  Only a select few would have remained with the Steelers after such awful decisions.

    The Steelers know it, they brought him back into the starting line-up the week he was available, and the team came strikingly close to what will be their eventual third championship during his tenure. 

    The Rooney's and the Pittsburgh Steelers brand kept the quarterback despite trying circumstances, their loyalty (or forced hand) being the ultimate demonstration of his elite status and supreme value.