Blog Entry

Progression of a Quarterback

Posted on: December 18, 2008 6:27 am
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.

Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 10:31 pm

Progression of a Quarterback

So, I checked the article that his Wikipedia references.  It includes 2000, where Brady threw THREE passes.  They went 5 - 11.

Damn, I wish Drew Bledsoe had won more games so Brady would "have" the record. :P

Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 10:29 pm

Progression of a Quarterback

Brady was tied for the most wins for a quarterback in his first five years as a QB...until Ben surpassed him 

Erm.  From 2001 to 2005, Brady won 58 regular season games as a starter (11 in 2001, then 9, 14, 14, and 10).  So far, Roethlisberger has 50 regular season wins as a starter (13 in 2004, then 9, 7, 10, and 11 this year).  Even throwing in games he didn't play, by my math, Roethlisberger is up to 55 (15 in 2004, then 11, then 8, then 10 last 11).  Including post season, Brady goes up to 68 (he started 10 - 0 in the playoffs before losing to Denver).  If I recall correctly, Ben has 5 playoff wins (one win in 2004, four in 2005, didn't qualify in 2006, went one and done last year)...that puts him up to 55 or 60.

And Ben's playing the style of football that got the Patriots to the SB and the rings.No, Ben turns the ball over and makes boneheaded plays. 

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2008 10:58 am

Progression of a Quarterback


I don't think Charlie Frye is a Ben Roethisberger, but like Tim Couch before him, suffered from a poor offensive line.  Charlie was / is actually quicker than Ben, but not as strong and did not look off receivers as well.  Charlie was a third round draft choice in 2005, and while he has played in two games in Seattle this year (2TD's & 2 Int's, rating around 50) appears destined to be a lifetime backup in the NFL.  Not a bad job to be a back-up NFL QB actually, but a Ben Roeslisberger he is not. 

Pittsburgh actually has two MAC QB's now that Brian Leftwich, a Jaguar 7th round pick in the 2003 draft, replaced Batch on the team.  I remember watching the 2001 GMAC Bowl in which Brian with a broken shin rallied his Marshall University team to a 64 -61 OT victory over East Carolina.  His offensive line literally carried him up to the line of scrimmage after big receptions down field.  It was one of the most gutsy performances I've ever seen.  In fact, Pittsburgh may have the toughest starting and back-up QB's in the league in Roethlisberger and Leftwich, and they are both from the MAC conference that many would write off as second rate.


Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2008 10:41 am

Progression of a Quarterback



Since: Nov 10, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 9:15 am

Progression of a Quarterback

Good writeup. I'd like to talk a little about patience. As a Steeler fan transplanted in the Virginia 'burbs of DC (for now, anyway) I know the benefit of having patience with your players and your team. Pittsburgh fans are lucky to have a team that makes annual runs to the playoffs more routine than rare. Enjoy this. Bask in how good it feels.

The Redskins are the opposite. The media and the fans on radio talk shows have no patience for losing. Not all of them but more than a few. They also have an owner with even less patience who must listen to these fans. Marty Schottenheimer won everywhere he coached but only lasted one season in Washington. The poor players didn't like having to practice hard so they complained in the press and on the radio and Marty was fired. There was grumbling during the second coming of Joe Gibbs. Jim Zorn may be next even though he doesn't deserve it. And Jason Campbell is on the hot seat. I've always said that if Kordell Stewart had been a Redskin he might have ended up one of their all time great receivers because he sure wouldn't have been given the quarterback opportunity he had in Pittsburgh. One and done.

Once again the point is enjoy your players, your coaches and your team. They're a treasure that not everyone gets to enjoy.

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 5:59 am

Progression of a Quarterback


Nope, he's no Tom Brady...and Brady's no Matt Cassell (sorry couldn't resist).

But there are some comparisons...Both Brady and Roethlisberger have gone undefeated in a season when they started.

Brady was tied for the most wins for a quarterback in his first five years as a QB...until Ben surpassed him 

And Ben's playing the style of football that got the Patriots to the SB and the rings.  It wasn't Brady's high powered offense but his ability to drive the field when it counted, controlling the ball, that won the SBs for the Patriots.  Even Peyton Manning finally got to the SB and won when they started eating the clock and driving the field instead of relying strictly on Mannings arm. 

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 5:53 am

Progression of a Quarterback


I agree that Ben is a perfect fit, basically because he doesn't seem to give up when a play breaks down, for better or worse, but at least he's willing to take chances. 

And thanks.

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 5:50 am

Progression of a Quarterback


Thanks.  The one thing stats don't show is the actual game.  What was the weather, what were the intangibles, who were the defenses they've played.  Yeah stats are going to look great if you play a team that has no defense, like the Saints or the Rams.  Look at how the Steelers defense brought down the QB rating of Rivers, Romo and, yes, even Eli's stats took a hit.  It's how the quarterback plays when the chips are down is what isn't shown in the stats. 

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 5:44 am

Progression of a Quarterback

The Mick,

Yeah, his inaccuracy could be blamed on his shoulder or trying to adjust to a constant pass rush and getting the ball out quickly.  Earlier in the season, the play calling kept Ben in the pocket (don't know why, he looked more comfortable when he was out of it trying to make the plays). 

His size, his ability to get away from the rush and run out of the pocket are definitely factors why he continues to provide the drives to even come from behind.  Tommy Maddox was never comfortable getting out of the pocket and behind a primarily run oriented oline, not a good thing for a pure pocket passer like Maddox was. 

The one thing that I liked about Ben, which he continues to show, is his maturity he showed his first season.  I see the same in Flacco.  I think Flacco will be the fit that the Ravens needed on their offense.

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 5:39 am

Progression of a Quarterback


I don't know about Frye, honestly, and I'm not sure how Ben would fit on another team, he'd probably do well, but then, if he was on the Raiders, whose to say (I don't see Manning playing as well if he was on the Raiders 

The success of a quarterback isn't only on the quarterback but also on his team.  Does Frye possess the skills and ability, I think so, I just don't think he's found the team that he could do it with.  Look at Kurt Warners career, how well he did on the Rams and not so well he did with the Giants and then took the Cardinals to the playoffs...once he got his weapons.  Look how well Tom Brady did the year he finally got all his weapons in place and they sync'd up.  Until then, people were discounting him for just being a field general.

Ben's ratings could be higher, a lot of it is on him and a lot of it is on his receivers - and the play calling.  There were a lot of plays called, well that shouldn't have been.  And there were alot of dropped passes by his receivers this season that should have been caught. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or