Whether regarding his penchant for making the big play, success in clutch moments or Houdini acts in the pocket, Steelers Nation is blessed to have such a rare talent at the most critical position in football.
On April 24, 2004, the Steelers franchise began its second championship era with the drafting of the Miami (OH) quarterback. Fans anxiously waited through the early selections, wondering if the young gun would be available while Cleveland and Detroit obliged by drafting Kellen Winslow II and Roy Williams.
Those faithfully garbed in Black and Gold remember the giant's day at the podium. They also vividly recall Tommy Maddox sitting awkwardly on his knees, his arm contorted strangely, during a loss at Baltimore. Roethlisberger entered the game to spell the broken Maddox, but ultimately never left, as he spelled R-I-N-G at the conclusion of his sophomore season.
He struggled in Super Bowl XL, but he was still the youngest champion quarterback in NFL history.
In those days, the 'Berger was a part of a machine still slightly bigger than himself, though it is hard to imagine anything being bigger than Ben in "Pitts-berger." A quarterback capable of great plays was a key cog in a balanced attack.
He had a large influence on the outcome of games, however. If he were truly just a remote operator, the outcome of those early seasons and the fifth championship would have been playoff exits- the Kordell Stewart specialty.
As seasons elapsed, the offensive line talent wore thinner, while the keys to the car became more accessible. Upon taking over as offensive coordinator, Bruce Aryans ought as well have said, "Here they are. Take them and drive!" He went as far as to design packages and concepts in which Ben could call his own plays.
The team passed with more frequency than ever before. The Steelers' franchise quarterback with the niche for the gloriously unexpected became the anti-Favre, a gunslinger molded together with a rational field general opposed to a narcissistic cannon firing rounds without regard and with far too much reckless abandon.
And, the Steelers won another Super Bowl.... but this time it was largely because of Ben.
Along the way, he eclipsed 4,000 yards in a season (2009) and 30 touchdowns (2007). Yet, for all of his big-game capability, the quarterback has never put these types of numbers all together.
In 2011, Ben Roethlisberger will have his greatest statistical season, harnessing all of his talents and producing a breakout campaign to silence every dim-witted critic that ranks him far too low.
In fact, I expect nothing short of 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, all while avoiding critical turnovers. In other words, Favre 2.0 is about to get even better: Roethlisberger 2.0.
Fans in Pittsburgh will realize that such a fine season isn't a finer version of Big Ben at all; it's just the potential of a great quarterback coming together in harmony.
In no particular order, here are seven for No. 7: seven reasons to expect the greatest season of No. 7's illustrious career in 2011!