|Ben Roethlisberger improves to 40-14 as a starter, including the playoffs. (Getty Images)|
Anyone who's seen the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger lately knows he looks a lot more like the Ben Roethlisberger of 2005 than the Ben Roethlisberger of last season, and, trust me, that's a good thing.
Never was that more evident than Monday's 38-7 dissection of the Ravens, a victory that underscored what we suspected for weeks -- namely, that Pittsburgh is the team to beat in the AFC North.
And Big Ben is a big reason why.
He played with poise. He dodged big hits. He ran out of trouble. He avoided critical sacks. He hit big passes. He played so flawlessly, he achieved a perfect passer rating. And, most important, he won.
In short, he did everything he did not against the Ravens a year ago.
"He's become a franchise quarterback," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's doing a lot of things right."
When Roethlisberger faced the Ravens a year ago, he was a sitting duck, sacked 14 times in two losses where he threw four interceptions en route to a league-high 23. Roethlisberger wasn't very good, and neither were his teammates -- and, man, oh, man, has that changed.
Now he's so sharp it is he -- not Carson Palmer -- who's the top quarterback in the AFC North, and you can look it up. With a career-high five touchdown passes Monday, Big Ben has 20 for the season -- also a career high -- which is four ahead of the woebegone Palmer and three more than Cleveland's Derek Anderson.
Look, I'm not here to compare the passing abilities of Roethlisberger vs. Palmer, but one thing that does intrigue me is why this guy doesn't get more attention east of Latrobe and west of Carnegie. The national perspective is that he's a good quarterback but nothing special -- which, considering his achievements, doesn't add up.
"We don't have an offense that throws the ball a lot," explained wide receiver Hines Ward. "We ask the quarterback to be efficient and not turn the ball over. So you're not going to be known for quarterbacks and wide receivers in Pittsburgh. We're an efficient team, not a passing team."
Which is all the more reason to marvel at Roethlisberger's accomplishments.