Call me a homer if you will, I’ll accept that title. I guess, if we’re fans of a team that is on a winning streak, we all are in one way or another. And we’ve all had to go through listening to the maligning of our respective teams quarterbacks from time to time. Some times it’s warranted, others not so much.
I remember sitting and listening to how Peyton couldn’t win the big one, or how Tom Brady was only a field general, only as good as the system he was in. Of course, there were the arguments about how Tom Brady would be much better behind the Colt’s oline. Put another quarterback on the Steelers team and they’d do just as well (which we know isn’t true).
In reality, a quarterback regardless of how good he is, is only as good as the team he is on. Kurt Warner would never survive behind the Steelers oline. But I’m digressing here. Because as a homer, this blog is a testimony to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. No, seriously. Over the years, I’ve watched this kid (yes Ben, if you’re young enough to be my son, you’ll always be a “kid”) progress. There were times I thought he could do no wrong and there were times that I’d want to put him in a corner until he gain some sense.
While everyone watched the drama over the Philip Rivers/Eli Manning saga in the 03 draft, Bill Cowhers and the Steelers scouting staff quietly picked up a quarterback in the first round, something the Steelers hadn’t done since Terry Bradshaw was drafted.
It wouldn’t be too long before he’d see his first game and from that time on, we’ve watched him progress. One thing about Ben, it’s his team first. He’s never been one to care about his numbers, however, I think he secretly enjoys proving his detractors and nay sayers wrong.
In his rookie year, we’ve heard that the Steelers would be lucky to finish 8-8 when Maddox went down. Ben would go on to have a 13-0 start his first year, taking the Steelers to 15-1 in regular season. Okay he struggled in the playoffs and would take his first loss in the NFL in the AFCC. But that year, the only thing that those who doubted him got right was that no rookie quarterback had gotten into and won the Superbowl. In the off-season he made Jerome Bettis a promise to get him to the SB.
The next year, due to injuries and a shaky start, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, but when Ben returned and after a loss to the Colts, in 2005, the Steelers started the run for the wildcard and never looked back. Some can argue that it was the Steelers running game that got them there, perhaps, but it was Ben’s arm that opened up that running game. Once defenses backed off, the running game opened up. While the Steelers offense kept them in it, the Steelers defense methodically did it’s work too. That year, the Steelers would win the Superbowl. Okay, maybe Ben didn’t play well, but they had to get there and he was the one that helped them do that.
After a motorcycle accident and an appendectomy at the beginning of the next season, it looked like SB hangover set in, and it did. However, instead of having a losing season, Cowhers last season, they ended up .500. It was when Ben finally got healthy that they started winning. (I’ll rant about this as one of his flaws later).
The Steelers weren’t expected to do much with a rookie head coach coming in the next year. To top that, there were arguments as to whether Roethlisberger would be a top ranked quarterback, ever. While Tom Brady and the Patriots were running the gambit for a perfect season, Ben Roethlisberger was taking the Steelers offense to an AFC North title. Yep, it was the running game, after all, before Willie Parker broke his ankle, he was leading the NFL in rushing yards. Yet, even with the strong running game, Roethlisberger would end up being 2nd or 3d overall for quarterbacks that year, despite being the most sacked quarterback in the league.
There was one thing that people kept saying about Roethlisberger, that he could only win a game if he was ahead. If the Steelers had to come from behind to win, it wouldn’t happen. Guess this year he’s proving them wrong. Yeah, you may want to say that with no running game, there’s no offense. I disagree. A team with no offense isn’t going to be able to control the field, nor be able to come back and tie or win a game, especially against top ranked defenses.
This year, after losing two games in which the Steelers had the lead in, the Steelers had come back from behind in three of them to win two and tie one. Can we really say that the Steelers would have lost to the Cowboys in overtime? Hard to say, Deshea Townsend made that a moot point. Tony Romo choked? Well, yeah he did, but he wasn’t the one playing on defense that allowed the Steelers to drive back for a touchdown to tie the game. Ravens defense changed up, yeah they did, but they were the ones to go into prevent defense…could it be the way that Ben and the wide receivers were driving down the field for 92 yards that caused Rex Ryan to call it that way?
Yeah, Ben has his problems. He has an ego that for some reason or another makes it hard for him to sit out a game or two when he’s injured, when there is more then capable backups to substitute for him. Not like he’s going to lose his starting quarterback slot anytime soon. Yeah, he holds on to the ball too long at times, but that’s just him wanting to make big plays. We curse him when he gets sacked, we cheer when he is able to get the big play off. Yeah, sometimes he doesn’t read the field, but what quarterback is perfect at that?
But for as much as the offense has struggled in some games, they’re still managing to put up enough points to put themselves in the position for the win. Despite the lack of a running game, despite an oline, though improved, still struggles. Those come from behind wins have been on Ben’s arm. What does it matter if it’s by 1 or 100 points, a win is a win. And besides, when you have a great defense, do you really need to be putting up 45 points a game anyway?
And this year, where a lot of quarterbacks have struggled and have become flustered at the end of the game when they're behind, Ben hasn’t done that, at least not since the Colts loss.