When I’ve visited the Steelers’ training camp during the past decade or so, my personal highlight has always been watching Ben Roethlisberger work with his offense. If you can find just the right vantage point near the area where the receivers run their routes, you’ll get a rare opportunity to witness the incredible velocity and accuracy of Big Ben’s passes. Watching the games on TV, or even at the stadium, doesn’t begin to capture what’s happening at ground level when you’re only a few yards away from where the receivers catch the ball. At 36 years of age, No. 7 still has a rocket arm that you’ve got to witness up-close to believe.
At the end of the 2017 regular season, Roethlisberger had compiled 51,065 passing yards, a mark which currently places him at No. 8 on the NFL’s all-time list for quarterbacks. Sometime during the initial part of the 2018 season, Ben will surpass John Elway, a personal hero whose number he proudly wears. Only 410 yards now stand between Roethlisberger and the No. 7 position on the all-time passing list:
- Peyton Manning: 71,940 yards
- Brett Favre: 71, 838 yards
- Drew Brees: 70,445 yards
- Tom Brady: 66,159 yards
- Dan Marino: 61,361 yards
- Eli Manning: 51,682 yards
- John Elway: 51,475 yards
- Ben Roethlisberger: 51,065 yards
- Philip Rivers: 50,348 yards
- Warren Moon: 49,325 yards
Besides the incentive Ben has had in recent seasons to best the legendary NFL quarterback he admired as a youngster, he’s also locked into ongoing competition with two active quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. To share recognition as one of the NFL’s Top-5 passers of all time, Ben would also have to surpass Dan Marino before calling it quits. But if Ben continues to play for three more seasons (and he’s able to remain reasonably healthy), that’s certainly an attainable goal. Ben passed for 4,251 yards in 2017, and — given the outstanding receiver corps he’s working with as he embarks on the 2018 regular season — it’s likely he’ll stay well ahead of Rivers and perhaps surpass Manning.
Despite the fact that chasing Drew Brees and Tom Brady — each of whom enjoys a huge advantage in yardage — isn’t in the cards for Ben, finishing his career among the Top-5 all-time NFL passers would cement his legacy as one of the very best ever to play the game. While that’s a fact already known quite well by the faithful of Steelers Nation, we can still root for Ben in his quest to finally drive a stake through the heart of the silly-but-persistent idea that somehow he doesn’t belong among the best of the best.
So when the wide-eyed rookies and free agents show up at St. Vincent College for the opening of the Steelers’ training camp this summer, it’s likely their undivided attention will first be focused on the leader of the pack — a player surely destined to become one of pro football’s immortals. And in the context of this franchise’s storied history, Steelers fans can take pride, not only in supporting one of the greatest football teams of all time, but also in having witnessed the remarkable career of one of the league’s truly elite — yes, elite — quarterbacks.