“With the 11th Pick in the 2004 Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers choose Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback from Miami (Ohio),” Paul Tagliabue announced as the the Steeler nation cheered in Madison Square Garden.
The critics thought picking the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback was a bad idea, and that the Steelers should have picked defensive tackle Tommie Harris or wide-receiver Lee Evans.
Nevertheless, when Roethlisberger stepped in for his first NFL action, sparks flew.
The injury to Tommy Maddox was a blessing in disguise—so to speak—which changed the plans for Roethlisberger. Instead of learning the team’s system, Steelers' coach Bill Cowher sent Roethlisberger out with the dogs in the third game of the season.
Arguably being the best choice Cowher ever made, Big Ben went 13–0 in the regular season, completing 196 of his 295 passes for a total of 2,621 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with a passer rating of 98.1. He was unanimously selected as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.
However, the success was cut short in the playoffs when the team lost to the New England Patriots, 41-27.
After losing in the AFC Championship game, Big Ben made a special, and tearful promise to veteran Jerome Bettis. He assured Bettis that if he returned for one more year, he will go to the Super Bowl in Detroit.
You can’t say Ben wasn't a man of his word.
The Steelers won Super Bowl XL, 21-10 over the Seattle Seahawks.
The critics were corrected, saying that the Big Ben era has began.
Then Big Ben got stupid…
In the off season, after winning the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger was in a very serious motorcycle accident which almost killed him. Roethlisberger, although making a surprising recovery, missed out on the kick-off game due to an appendectomy.
Ben was not the same quarterback, finishing the season with a 59.7 passing percentage, completing 280 of 469 attempts, and throwing 18 touchdowns with 23 interceptions.
Although the season was a bit embarrassing for Big Ben, he returned to form in 2007 when he set a Steelers' single-season record for touchdowns. He threw 32 touchdown passes, and finished third for NFL Comeback Player of the year honors.
Despite his strong performance, the Steelers' season was yet again cut short by an explosive Jaguars team, 31–29.
This year is a completely different story for Big Ben and the Steelers.
Even though Roethlisberger started the season almost perfect—literally, completing 13 of 14 passes with 137 yards and two touchdown against the Texans—his shoulder injury is slowing him down.
After Week Two against the Browns, Roethlisberger has struggled against the NFC East teams.
Against the Eagles, Roethlisberger was sacked eight times, lost two fumbles and went 13 for 25 with no touchdowns and one interception, finishing with a rating of 50.6.
Against the Giants in Week Eight, he went 13 for 29 passes with one touchdown and four interceptions and fumbled once.
And in his worst Monday Night performance, he threw five for 17, no touchdowns and one interception.
Although the game was saved by Byron Leftwich, who took over the offense after Roethlisberger left the game at halftime with complications with his throwing shoulder.
After that Monday Night Football disaster, Roethlisberger received a new nickname from some Steeler fans: “Worthlessberger.”
I had a conversation with a Steelers' fan wearing a Heath Miller jersey while watching Sunday’s game against the Colts, and he referred to Roethlisberger as “Worthlessberger” every time he threw an interception.
“Oh, Worthlessberger,” he said. “Yeah he’s a waste of my time. But in Leftwich, he’s healthy.”
Although Worthlessberger completed a season-high 30 passes for 284-yards, he had no touchdowns and three interceptions in the 24-20 loss.
The Steelers' fan was the first to jump up and agree during Roethlisberger's post-game press conference. "You’ll never hear me say 'I' anything, but I lost this game," confessed Roethlisberger.
The fan replied, “Damn right you lost the game. Stop crying and take a seat,” referring to starting Leftwich.
Whether it’s “Big Ben” or “Worthlessberger,” you have to admit, Ben Roethlisberger is not the same quarterback he used to be.
He is playing injured, and while he is hurting himself—most importantly—he’s hurting the Steelers.
Let me know what you think.