What did 49ers center Randy Cross say near the end of Super Bowl XXIX, when his team was laying a beat-down on Dan Marino and a Miami offense that was all the rage in 1984? I believe it was something along the lines of, "They came to see an offense, and the wrong one showed up."
If fans from coast-to-coast tuned in on Sunday to see the extraordinary talents of Andrew Luck as he led his Indianapolis team into Heinz Field for a battle against the Steelers, well, unlike those folks who tuned-in to ABC almost 30 years ago to watch Marino and the Dolphins, they probably weren't as disappointed.
After all, Luck was nearly as awesome as advertised, throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns, while leading a Colts offense that posted 448 total yards, 26 first downs and 34 points.
Unfortunately for the young Mr. Luck, he was merely almost as awesome as Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers' veteran quarterback. Despite an impressive career that had Ben poised to become only the fourth player at his position to achieve his 100th victory in 150 career games (joining fellow-Steeler and legendary quarterback Terry Bradshaw in the exclusive club), No. 7 came into the day's action as the second banana in this matchup of marquee quarterbacks.
While Roethlisberger achieved this feat in Pittsburgh's 51-34 victory over the Colts, the way he went about it was awe-inspiring and historic.
Seriously, it was the most amazing thing I've ever witnessed. Roethlisberger not only threw for six touchdowns and 522 yards (the fourth highest amount in NFL history), he completed 40 of 49 attempts, which averages out to more than 13 yards per completion.
And now I'm wondering where Roethlisberger's performance ranks in the annals of time. Sure, that's hyperbole, but six touchdown passes and 522 yards will buy you a lot of hype.
Roethlisberger has and always will have his critics. Speaking of Bradshaw, you might say Roethlisberger is a modern-day version of old No. 12, as he has never been considered a thinking-man's quarterback. But even in the face of constant critics, Ben's career pretty much speaks for itself.
When all is said and done, Roethlisberger will probably never even sniff the records of Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Dan Marino, but none of them had (or have, in the case of Manning) thrown for 500 yards twice in their careers. In fact, nobody in NFL history ever achieved that until No. 7 accomplished the task against the Colts' defense on Sunday.
Roethlisberger has the rings and the wins, and when it comes to that, he likes to say that's all that matters to him. But every professional athlete has pride and an ego, and what Ben did on Sunday before a national audience and opposite perhaps the game's next great quarterback, had to satisfy him about as much as it did his supporters such as yours-truly, who always want to see him get his due when praise and accolades are dished out by fans and experts alike.
Today, I can honestly say I've never been more proud of a Pittsburgh athlete than I am of Ben Roethlisberger.