Why Ben Roethlisberger Is Better Than Terry Bradshaw, It's Not Even Close
There's been a lot of talk about whether or not Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback and where he belongs in a ranking of the current NFL passers. Something that's been kind of swept aside is seeing where Big Ben is on his own team.
The Steelers' gold standard for quarterback play has always been Terry Bradshaw. No player before him or after has had the positive impact and the success that Bradshaw enjoyed during his 1970 to 1983 tenure with the Steelers.
Here's a look at why Ben Roethlisberger, in the eighth year of his career, is already far ahead of Bradshaw.
Look at the Stats
The NFL is a statistics-driven league these days, so let's start this comparison by looking at the statistics.
Through his first eight seasons, Terry Bradshaw had thrown 93 touchdown passes. Roethlisberger has, to date, thrown 158. Now, the Steelers of today do pass more than the Steelers of the 1970s, which relied heavily on the running of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier among others.
If you want to look at something that's perhaps a little more telling, let's take a look at completion percentage. One would expect Roethlisberger's to be lower because he's attempted a lot more passes in eight years than Terry Bradshaw did from 1970 to 1977.
That would be incorrect. Roethlisberger, through eight years, has completed 63 percent of his passes. In that same time, with fewer attempts by far, Bradshaw only completed around 47 percent of his throws. In fact, if you look at Bradshaw's entire career, only once did he have a better completion percentage than Roethlisberger's worst season (59.7 percent in 2006). That season, Bradshaw played in only one game.
Also, Bradshaw's interceptions are much higher and his interception percentage is also higher even if you average the best eight years of his career.
Roethlisberger and Bradshaw were both excellent when it came to throwing the deep ball. Both were also what would be considered mobile quarterbacks (but not running quarterbacks).
The difference is that Bradshaw just doesn't have the pattern of creating from nothing. Ben Roethlisberger does that all the time.
It's hard to discuss two different eras in comparison, but playing skills are what they are regardless of the time period. It's also arguable that Bradshaw played in an era where freelancing at the quarterback position was much more commonplace. Today is the era of the "system quarterback."
Roethlisberger can make more plays outside the pocket, keep plays alive longer and is much, much better at breaking out of tackles to get away or keep the play moving.
That's an invaluable skill set and one that Bradshaw, for all his abilities, simply did not possess.
The Comeback Kid
There's really not much to be said here. Next to Tom Brady, no quarterback in the history of the modern era of football has been more adept at turning around games in the fourth quarter and overtime. I would put Roethlisberger even with Brady in that regard. Both men know how to bring teams back.
Bradshaw was a great quarterback, but he played on a team that relied on him for one or two big plays each game and otherwise asked him to simply make throws when they weren't running the ball.
Roethlisberger is a guy who's feared around the league because, if the game is in reach at any point, he can find a way to beat any defense. A close loss is a surprise to Steelers fans and players because of this fact. There is an expectation that, when No. 7 has the ball, the team will find a way to win.
Playing Through Pain
Broken nose, broken foot twice, bruised ribs, broken right thumb twice. These are just some of the ailments and injuries that have plagued Ben Roethlisberger, who gets hit more than most quarterbacks ever do.
Roethlisberger is simply the best at playing through pain and injury. Bradshaw could do this too, but he wasn't nearly as effective as Roethlisberger has been. In fact, Roethlisberger is a throwback in a lot of ways to the rough and tumble days of the early NFL.
There are a lot of things that both men have done well, but Roethlisberger just does them better. The trend continues here with playing through pain. The running joke during Pittsburgh's bye week is that Roethlisberger plays better when hurt and probably should be injured every season just to make sure the team competes.
Ever hear that joke associated with another NFL quarterback ever? I didn't think so.
The Bottom Line
This article isn't meant to disparage what Bradshaw did in his NFL career. He was and will always be a great quarterback and the first ever to win four Super Bowl rings. There is one area where Ben Roethlisberger must improve: Super Bowl quarterbacking.
Bradshaw has two Super Bowl MVPs to Ben's zero.
The bottom line, however, is that Ben Roethlisberger burst onto the scene his rookie season in 2004 and has never slowed down. He's only made everyone else look like they're slowly falling behind.
Bradshaw took years to get going in the NFL and still had big holes in his game the entire way through his career.
That's really why Roethlisberger is greater than Bradshaw. And it really isn't even close at this point. The question now is not if Bradshaw's team records will fall, it's simply a matter of which game they'll fall in.