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Debate over Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning in the 2004 NFL Draft still burning

Both can already make Hall of Fame cases with many years still ahead of them, but each respective team, the Steelers and the Giants, will debate who made out better in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

Spencer Platt

Seeing the NFC East and the AFC West on the Steelers schedule each year means many things - long flights combined with Joe Buck doing the play-by-play.

More than that, it means the standard revisit of the 2004 NFL Draft.

Or, more to the point, an overview of how Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger compares with Giants QB Eli Manning and a tidbit about Chargers QB Phillip Rivers.

All three have had success in the NFL - while Eli and Ben are having at least as much success as their three-letter-first-name passing rival, Tom Brady, this season, Rivers seems to be imploding before our very eyes.

It confirms what most already perceived - Roethlisberger and Manning were the prize passers of that draft, and while both the Chargers and the Giants had chances to take Roethlisberger without having to give up draft picks, the whole trade between the two teams went down based on Manning.

Gary Meyers of the New York Daily News has something of a written history of the trade and the draft in a piece he wrote for their Oct. 27 edition.

His general thesis seems to be the Giants ultimately won out, having given future picks to the Chargers, who took Manning first overall. The Giants, at the request of the Chargers, drafted Rivers, even though many sources have confirmed without the trade, they would have taken Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger seemed to know that, and while being passed by the Giants and Chargers, as well as the Cleveland Browns, it wasn't that he was upset the Steelers drafted him. But the look on his face when he stood up from his table in the Green Room during the draft showed clearly he wasn't happy to be the third quarterback taken.

Alls well that ends well, right? Maybe. Ruthlessly competitive people do not let things go, especially things they view as personal slights and insults.

Each player, obviously, has become the face of his respective franchise, and will ultimately finish among the better passers of his generation. Rivers clearly can't sniff the level of success Roethlisberger and Manning have, which is part of the reason Sunday's Steelers at Giants game becomes so intriguing.

Manning throws more interceptions, but is lights-out in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger has his share of comebacks, but also played with the league's best overall scoring defense since 2004. Both have two Super Bowl titles, and Roethlisberger has one more appearance.

Even daring to suggest Manning is superior to Roethlisberger is akin to treason in SteelerNation. Many would also enter into evidence off-the-field accusations pertaining to Roethlisberger as reasons their votes go to Manning.

If Meyers feels Manning and the loss of a third round and a fifth round pick in 2005 (what the Giants gave to San Diego for the rights to Manning) is "clearly" better than what they could have had with Roethlisberger, then ok.

Suggesting Manning is better because he doesn't have the amount of "drama" Roethlisberger does is silly. I don't recall Roethlisberger or his dad telling the media he refuses to play in San Diego.

Of the few concrete truths involved in this debate is both quarterbacks have had high levels of success where they currently play, and both teams have molded their teams so much around their respective passers, it's nearly impossible to imagine either franchise without them.