Ben Roethlisberger's best magic trick is making receivers appear much better than they are

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The amount of receivers Roethlisberger has seen leave Pittsburgh for big paydays and declined production is enough to, incidentally, fill a decent - but not great - receivers depth chart.

The answer is: Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown.

The question, obviously, is who are some of the outstanding receivers to play with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. A solid list, but this isn't exactly Rice, Moss, Owens and Harrison.

Roethlisberger has already shattered every franchise passing record previously held by Terry Bradshaw - a Hall of Fame quarterback with four Super Bowl rings and two Hall of Fame teammates playing receiver. Ben, and his passing era, will leave a gap between himself and Bradshaw nearly one career of Bubby Brister passing stats wide by the time he's done, and he's done this with many different receivers.

How many of them were, you know, actually good? The ones who left didn't exactly re-write records books on their own. Many of them finished below the production they put up in Pittsburgh.

How about Antwaan Randle-El? He left the Steelers after 2005 and signed a seven-year deal with the Washington Redskins for $31 million, including $11.5 million in bonus money. The 'Skins immediately tried to make him a starting receiver, and he ended up starting 48 total games from 2006 to 2009.

However, Randle-El only started 23 games for Pittsburgh. In those 23 games, he tallied 184 receptions, 2,265 yards, and 7 touchdowns. In his 48 starts for Washington, he caught 186 passes for 2,202 yards and 8 touchdowns. Translation? With Roethlisberger at the helm, Randle-El had almost identical statistics as he did with the Redkins, in an astounding 25 less starts.

Nate Washington saw regular spot duty as the No. 3 receiver for the Steelers from 2006 to 2008, but only started seven games in that span. After showing flashes of talent with Big Ben throwing him the ball, Washington cashed in on a six-year, $27 million deal with the Tennesse Titans. Just like Randle-El, he was inserted directly into the starting lineup.

Throughout his duration in Tennessee, Washington has only eclipsed 1,000 yards once, and averages less than 50 yards per game in that time. While his overall statistics are better with the Titans, he's also started 75 games. But he did  average more yards per catch with Roethlisberger than he has overall in Tennessee.

He's another one who cashed in off his time with the Steelers even though he hasn't lived up to his deal with the Titans. There's no question playing with Roethlisberger made him look better than he is.

Last but not least, there's Santonio Holmes. The hero and MVP of Super Bowl XLIII. He was a fixture of the Pittsburgh receiving corps and started 48 games in 4 years. Unfortunately, Holmes had some off the field issues, and was traded to the New York Jets in 2010.

Holmes' stat-line with the Steelers is solid - 235 receptions, 3,835 yards, and 20 touchdowns. Compare that to his 41 starts in his injury-riddled tenure with the Jets, and it's not even close. His 146 receptions, 2,128 yards, and 16 touchdowns pale in comparison to what Holmes accomplished with Big Ben.

Of course, it helps to have reliable guys and playmakers. Ward is the best receiver in Steelers history. Burress and Roethlisberger had a fantastic rapport. Wallace and Big Ben were one of the most lethal deep threat combos in the NFL. Brown has emerged as one of the NFL's best all-around receivers and a true #1.

But, behind the #1 guy, Roethlisberger has always made whoever he is throwing to better. This is why there should be no concern what combination of receivers make the 53-man roster in 2014.

Whether it be Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Justin Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Derek Moye, or C.J. Goodwin - Big Ben will bring the best out of them. He's done it his whole career, and I don't see him stopping anytime soon.

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