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Ben Roethlisberger 'oddly underrated as an MVP candidate'

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NFL.com Around the League editor Gregg Rosenthal named Ben Roethlisberger a 'sleeper MVP candidate' in 2013. If Roethlisberger plays, the Steelers can win. If not, winning is far more difficult. So yes, he's an MVP-level player.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

NFL.com Around the League editor Gregg Rosenthal released his "Quarterback Index," which seems like a fancy name for a simple ranking list of the players at the position.

In that, however, he placed Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger No. 5 overall, and dubbed him a "sleeper MVP candidate" for the 2013 season.

Roethlisberger was performing at the level of an MVP last season, including arguably his best career statistical performance in a loss at Oakland last year (36-for-49, 384 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions). He was injured in Week 10, and never came back fully to form in a rough four-game slide to finish 8-8 on the year.

A healthy Roethlisberger will lead the Steelers in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans. Which version of Big Ben will be on the field? The one who was justifiably a top-three player at his position in Weeks 1-9, or the one who didn't appear to come back physically or mentally from a grotesque injury in Weeks 14-17?

It's the question of the Steelers' season. If Roethlisberger can lead this offense, the Steelers will avoid the slow start that doomed them last season. If he can stay healthy over 16 games, the Steelers will have a good shot at the playoffs.

This is pretty much the way it usually is in Pittsburgh. Get Roethlisberger on the field, the team can win. If he's not, odds seem more likely the team is at or below the .500 mark.

In other words, he's an MVP-level player.

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