NFL Elite Player vs. Elite Player: Peyton Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Vincenzo LandinoContributor IIIAugust 16, 2011

NFL Elite Player vs. Elite Player: Peyton Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger

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    In the NFL today, there are a small number of quarterbacks that can be considered elite.  Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger can definitely be considered in that elite category.

    In a previous article (2011 NFL: Rating the League's Smartest Players), I ranked Peyton Manning as the smartest quarterback in the league today.

    One thing I didn't address is what quarterback you would rather have if you were to start a franchise. Fellow Pittsburgh Steelers writer Nick Signorelli addressed this topic back in 2009 (Peyton Manning-Ben Roethlisberger: Who Would You Rather Have?). Now I'd like to readdress this debate.

    In this article, I'm going to compare these two quarterbacks while making cases for each and against the other.  For the sake of making this a fair argument, I will be comparing the first seven years of each quarterback's career.


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    Peyton Manning: 216

    Ben Roethlisberger: 144

    I'd like to note here that Manning's best year in 2004, when he threw for 49 touchdowns, is included in this stat.  For the rest of his career, he has never passed for more than 35 touchdowns.

    Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger plays in a run-first offense and has only thrown over 20 touchdowns once.

    Another nugget of information is that Roethlisberger has started 14 less games, which equates to nearly a season worth of data.

    Advantage: Peyton Manning 


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    Ben Roethlisberger: 86

    Peyton Manning: 120


    Read into this stat as you will. I read it as it is. Peyton Manning threw 34 more interceptions than Roethlisberger in the first seven years of his career.  

    Advantage: Ben Roethlisberger

Completion Percentage

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    Peyton Manning: 63.5

    Ben Roethlisberger: 63.1


    No clear advantage for either quarterback here. But I will say this: Consider the fact that Peyton has always thrown behind a big, cushy pocket, while Roethlisberger has had a tougher time on the run and still completing the same percentage of passes.

    Advantage: Draw

Passer Rating

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    Peyton Manning: 92.8

    Ben Roethlisberger: 92.5


    Another very close number, one that is up for debate anyway. However, I will say this.: Because I am taking in seven years of data, this includes Manning's insane year in 2004 which when he had a huge outlier.  His quarterback rating that year was 121.1 (88.08 career to date prior to the year; Roethlisberger had 91.07 in his first six years).

    Advantage: Draw


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    Peyton Manning: 29,442

    Ben Roethlisberger: 22,502


    Manning wins this category easily because of his pass-happy, throw-first offense.  Considering Roethlisberger has played 14 less games in the same span, this would have been much closer.  Take into consideration the offensive system and weapons (or lack thereof) for Roethlisberger, too.  Not a pass-happy situation until recently.

    Advantage: Manning

Playoff Record (the Most Important Stat)

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    Ben Roethlisberger: 10-3

    Peyton Manning: 3-5


    Is this even a competition? Ben has won seven more playoff games and has lost two less.  I'll take Roethlisberger come playoff time over Manning. Not even a competition.

    Advantage: Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers vs. Colts

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    I want to thank Nick Signorelli for the following comparison that I took directly from his article New Stats to Prove Ben Roethlisberger is Better Than Peyton Manning.

    Were the Steelers really the better team at that point?

     Overall Record (Not Playoffs):

    Pittsburgh: 77-35

    Indianapolis: 74-38


    Offense Rank (Average):

    Pittsburgh: 14th

    Indianapolis: Eighth (Colts' offense was ranked 19th in Manning's rookie season. Take that out, they would have been ranked third)

     Defensive Rank (Average):

    Pittsburgh: Third

    Indianapolis: 17th

    It is clear that in these time periods, the Steelers were the better defensive team, while the Colts were the better offensive team. Both by large margins.

    Is that directly related to the players? Let's take a look at how the Colts and Steelers spend their money.

    Colts.  Offense, $53.65 million. Defense, $28.75 million

    Here are the top salaries of the Colts from this past year.

    Peyton Manning (QB)—$18.7 million

    Bob Sanders (S)—$8.75 million

    Robert Mathis (DE)—$6.8 million

    Reggie Wayne (WR)—$6.6 million

    Ryan Diem (OL)—$6.3 million

    Dwight Freeney (DE)—$5.75 million

    Jeff Saturday (C)—$5.2 million

    Raheem Brock (DT)—$4.72 million

    Gary Brackett (LB)—$2.73 million

    Dallas Clark (TE)—$2.5 million

    Adam Vinatieri (K)—$2.35 million


    Steelers. Offense, $37.4 million. Defense, $37.8 million

    Ben Roethlisberger (QB)—$8 million

    Troy Polamalu (S)—$6.8 million

    Hines Ward (WR)—$6.7 million

    Max Starks (OL)—$6.6 million

    Casey Hampton (DT)—$6.4 million

    Ike Taylor (CB)—$5.75 million

    Aaron Smith (DE)—$4.75 million

    James Farrior (LB)—$4.5 million

    Willie Parker (RB)—$4.1 million

    Brett Keisel (DE)—$4 million

    Ryan Clark (S)—$2.2 million

    This makes it clear the Colts spend most of its money on the offensive side of the ball, which would obviously put more talent on the offense. The Steelers evenly distribute the wealth on both sides of the ball.

    Can you imagine Roethlisberger with a serious offensive line in front of him?


    Advantage: Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Verdict

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    The clear-cut winner here is Ben Roethlisberger.  While Peyton Manning may be a Hall of Famer and have tons of regular-season records, the only one that counts in MY book is that Roethlisberger has two rings and has played for a third. Peyton has one, in his two appearances in the Super Bowl.  If I were to start a franchise, I would select Ben as my quarterback.  Again, Ben is MY selection, however I'm sure it can go either way.  I respect Peyton as a quarterback and think he is one of the, if not THE smartest player ever to step foot onto a football field and that one day he will be an amazing coach/GM. 

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