PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Tennessee Titans during the game on October 9, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Right after Ben Roethlisberger threw his fifth touchdown pass of the day against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday--a 40 yard strike to Mike Wallace--Dan Dierdorf said that Roethlisberger tied a team record shared by Terry Bradshaw and Mark Malone. Dierdorf's broadcast partner, Greg Gumble, chimed in and reminded him that it was the second time Big Ben had thrown five TDs in a game.
I was glad to see Roethlisberger get rewarded for his efforts by being named AFC Offensive Player of the Week
Maybe it's just me, but I don't think Roethlsiberger has gotten nearly enough credit for his heroics against Tennessee on Sunday. A week ago at this time, there was speculation as to whether or not Roethlisberger would even play against the Titans because of his severely sprained foot. Yet, he went out and threw five touchdown passes!
I mean, that's pretty awesome, right? Ben's a franchise quarterback. It's great stuff, isn't it?Maybe I'm just a little defensive about our elite quarterback because of something someone said on the Steelers' hotline show following the team's 17-10 loss in Houston in week 4. The caller told the host, Tim Benz, that Roethlisberger is an overrated quarterback, and when Benz tried to remind him of the three Super Bowl appearances and two Lombardi trophies since Ben's arrival in '04, the caller said, "oh, he was just along for the ride." Outrageous, I know, but it's not the first time I've heard that from talk show callers or seen something like that written on message boards and blogs. And I've certainly had many frustrating conversations over the years with people who like to denounce the importance of the quarterback position, in general.
I'm not really surprised by that kind of sentiment. Steelers quarterbacks have never really been the toast of the town in Pittsburgh. Oh, sure, Big Ben is certainly one of the most popular guys on the team and always near the top of any Steelers discussion, but he's in a group of several popular and beloved Steelers. And if you were to poll most fans, Roethlisberger might finish in the middle of the pack in-terms of popularity.
It goes without saying that Roethlsiberger's off-the-field troubles have had a lot to do with that, but Pittsburgh has always been that way with our quarterbacks.
Terry Bradshaw is obviously one of the most famous and popular Steelers of all-time, but he was never THE MAN in town when he was helping the team win four Super Bowls in the 70's. There were several Steelers who were arguably more popular and more beloved than the Blonde Bomber.
Bradshaw wasn't the face of the franchise in Pittsburgh during his playing days like Johnny Unitus was in Baltimore or John Elway was in Denver. And Big Ben isn't really the face of the Steelers franchise today the way Peyton Manning is with the Colts or Tom Brady is with the Patriots.
And that's OK for the city to have that kind of mentality. It's the way we do it in Pittsburgh. As football fans, we identify with a hard-nosed defense and a sound, solid running game. A franchise quarterback with a $100 million contract? Not necessarily our thing.
In-fact, the last time Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns in a game, people talked more about linebacker James Harrison and his dominant performance in-front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.
Some people, like that talk show caller who insisted that Roethlisberger is just along for the ride, would tell you that Harrison and the defense deserved most of the credit for those five touchdown passes because they set Roethlisberger up with prime field position the entire night.
And if that same person called the postgame show this week, he would probably argue that four of the five touchdown passes that Roethlisberger threw this past Sunday were of the very short variety. Big deal, right? Any quarterback could throw that many touchdowns if he only had to pass a few yards.
Well, how many times in the past were we frustrated by Steelers offenses led by quarterbacks who couldn't deliver once the team got inside the 20-yard line?
Those same Ben detractors will say that Roethlisberger has benefitted by playing on some great teams since he came in the league. They will point to the dominating defenses. They will tell you that teams who run the football successfully win championships. All Ben has to do is just stay out of the way and manage the team.
"Don't try to be a hot-shot, Ben! Just play smart and know your role!"
To those people who say that, what about all those great Steelers teams from the 90's and early 00's? They had top-five defenses. They had top-ranked rushing attacks. Why couldn't Neil 'O Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart or Tommy Maddox bring the Steelers a Super Bowl trophy when they played under center?
Let's not forget, those Steelers teams were loaded with talent.
You may use Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Hines Ward, Alan Faneca, Heath Miller and James Farrior as examples for your argument that Ben Roethisberger has been just along for the ride. I give you Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Yancey Thigpen, Dermontti Dawson, Greg Lloyd, Jerome Bettis and Joel Steed as examples that even super-talented teams can't get anywhere if their quarterback doesn't shine in the big games.
I'm not saying that Ben Roethlsiberger is the only reason the Steelers have been as successful as they've been over the last six seasons, but I believe he's the most important reason.
I spent many years watching the Steelers lose playoff games because their quarterback couldn't come through in the clutch. I don't think it's a coincidence that the tide started to turn after Roethlisberger came on board.
Jerome Bettis spent many frustrating years chasing a championship during his career with the Steelers. I'm probably not going out on a limb by saying we wouldn't have had that wonderful "Ride the Bus to Detroit" storyline for Super Bowl XL if Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't have played at such a high-level in the playoffs that year.
And we wouldn't even have six rings to boast about if it wasn't for Roethlisberger's heroics in Super Bowl XLIII. After the historically dominant Steelers defense blew a 13-point second-half lead, millions of Steelers fans were facing the prospect of witnessing the most devastating loss in team history. Yet, Roethlsiberger, playing behind arguably the worst offensive line in franchise history, managed to lead his team almost the entire length of the field and threw the winning touchdown pass in the final seconds. Yes, Santonio Holmes was named MVP. Yes, he made one of the greatest catches of all time for the winning score. Yes, James Harrison's 100-yard interception return near the end of the first half was one of the most unbelievable plays ever in the history of the NFL. But the Steelers don't win Super Bowl XLIII without Ben Roethlisberger.
After Super Bowl XLIII, Steelers linebacker James Farrior was discussing the heart-stopping ending and said: "Something different from what you're used to seeing from the Pittsburgh Steelers. But we never had a $100 million quarterback before, either."
Worth every penny.