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: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 5:29 am

Progression of a Quarterback


Yes, there is a comparison to Bradshaw with Roethlisberger.  I felt bad for Bradshaw and (Noll), no matter what they did, they were damned if they do and damned if they don't with some fans.  But isn't that true with any quarterback (and coach)? 

With Bradshaw, I think his clinical depression had allowed him to take it personally, even if he didn't say it publically, hopefully Ben has learned not to take it that way, difficult though, when you're in the limelight, not to allow it to effect you.   No matter how well he plays, there will be someone who doesn't like him, even if he has a Manning/Brady/Marino record breaking season.

Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2008 1:28 am

Progression of a Quarterback

He's no Tom Brady, though.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: December 19, 2008 8:53 pm

Progression of a Quarterback


You nailed what Roethlisberger means to Pittsburgh in terms of a "franchise quarterback." The guy is a winner regardless of stats and whatnot.

Hate on him when he's sacked, love him when he's brilliant. Frustration is justified when he wins close games.

Big Ben is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. Your points about ego/toughness really define what a Steelers QB needs to have.

Great blog!

Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: December 19, 2008 11:31 am

Progression of a Quarterback

Great Article Mom,

Especially on these boards, it's not often you find a story about Ben or Eli or Rivers that someone takes the time to formulate why they have the affinity  for their QB - warts and all, qualities both good and bad - and provides the disclaimer of admitting the casual connection of the team sweater; not to prmote their cause but to explain their feelings. Too many times it's about the stats, and no one should ever need to explain why they're a fan or why they have the opinion they do.

And take it from me, because my quarterback is cut from the same cloth; people want to criticize Eli Manning because he sometimes looks like a spaz trying to force a play or because the Giants happen to have a good running game. I don't really care what his stat sheet looks like. I've watched him lead the offense down the field at the most critical moments of the most crucial games. That's what makes me a fan. I loved Phil Simms for the similar reasons - he wasn't always the most talented quarterback on the field, but he was tougher than iron and had the balls to challenge his head coach when he felt he was in the right - that's called leadership. For every Simms and Manning there's a Dave Brown, Danny Kannel, Joe Pisarcik, Kent Graham or Primadonna like Jeff Hostetler who's given the starting job over the better QB (Simms) and bolts 3,000 miles across the country for the money while Simms sits on the bench and takes his medicine without saying a single word. 

Great article as always! 

Since: Sep 26, 2006
Posted on: December 19, 2008 9:30 am

Progression of a Quarterback

While it may be hard for me to be objective, being a Ravens fan, I've admired Ben since he's been in the NFL - he was the first fantasy QB I drafted when I began playing a couple years back: just before the motorcycle accident!

He makes generally good decisions and one of his big advantages is that he's very big and strong: how many times has he been wrapped up by tacklers and still has completed a pass?

This year he seems to have taken a step back in terms of accuracy or being on the same page as his receivers regarding patterns, but my guess is that's directly or indirectly because of the injured shoulder.

Any team would be lucky to have such a QB as Big Ben.  I just hope Joe Flacco develops into a similar quality QB.

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: December 18, 2008 9:41 pm

Progression of a Quarterback

While not a Steeler fan, I was a Ben Roethlisberger fan from his rookie year on.  First he went to Miami Ohio, an alma mater of mine and a school with a good academic reputation not in one of the major conferences.  Second, he was an instant underdog just for going to a MAC school, and you gotta love the underdog.  Third, he obviously had all the necessary physical attributes in arm and body strength and sufficient foot speed.  Fourth, he played with heart, intensity and a desire to win.

Perhaps his only downside is Ben's first instinct is to take unnecessary risks.  Ben's motorcycle accident was about one year after Kellen Winslow's, and I thought to myself doesn't Ben learn from his peers?  On the field he sometimes forces plays, but only because he wants to succeed so badly, and often times because his offensive line has broken down too soon.   Perhaps even playing with injuries is all a part of that competitive instinct that makes it hard for Ben to properly evaluate uncertainty. 

He has gotten better in recent weeks throwing fewer interceptions and taking the unfortunate sack every once in a while.  While his QB rating around 80 isn't tops in the league, it is very good and I believe he is still getting better.  He always seems to come up with the drive when it is needed the most, and isn't that how the great ones are untimately judged anyway?

When the Browns picked Charlie Fry a few years ago in the draft I was a fan of his as well.  Charlie was a kid from Akron University, another MAC school with even less of a reputation than Miami.  I asked myself:  could he be the next Ben Roeslisberger?  Unfortunately, like most Pittsburgh / Cleveland comparisons in the last twenty years, he was not and Pittsburgh ended up on top.


Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: December 18, 2008 10:47 am

Progression of a Quarterback

Happy Thursday to you Mom,

It is interesting that you brought this topic up today... I was watching a video about the Steelers of yesteryear and saw many similarities between our young gun slinger and a former number one pick named Terry Bradshaw...

Yes the situation was different, but bare with me... the idea of having a quarterback that had some success and was then expected to be the savior for years to come... Ben was lucky and unlucky as he was able to enjoy unparralleled success in his first few seasons. The infancy of his career has been a storybook experience that few if any quarterbacks will ever see... undefeated 1st season... Superbowl champion in his 2nd season... he hit a little bump in the road... and now he has a shadow of doubt over him... the city of Pittsburgh loves it's heroes, but also loves to be pessimistic by nature...

Terry Bradshaw had a Superbowl ring and the fans were unsettled with him at quarterback... it was the defense that one the first... and many say the second Superbowl... Swann bailed him out on some less than stellar throws they would bemoan...

Now the similarities... the grit an determination to overcome the pressure of being the QB from Pittsburgh... the willingness to sacrifice one's self to be a true leader... Bradshaw re-invented himself much like Ben is doing... the idea of being a clutch performer, the idea of being a winner is what makes the two of them similar...

We have all had moments that both Terry and Ben have made us... let's say less than thrilled about their performances... I can only hope that we have learned from our ways... and cherish the time we have with Ben as our leader... one can say that we did not treat Terry as he should have been treated... I can only hope that we do not do the same with Ben...

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