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Steelers NFL Draft Flashback: Scouting Ben Roethlisberger

We take a look back at the scouting reports written about Ben Roethlisberger ahead of the 2004 NFL Draft.

2004 NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

In a flashback to the 2004 NFL Draft, we take a look at how Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was rated by the experts that year, and how accurate their projections about him really were.

Reviewing many of the scouting reports written about him at the time, it is rather easy to see why the Steelers were attracted to him, even if some in the local Pittsburgh media had their doubts about the team’s real interest ahead of the draft. This coming from an an archive on of a report from Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette entitled “Is QB Philip Rivers on top of Steelers list?

“When the Steelers revealed the names of a couple of quarterbacks who have accepted invitations to visit their facility next week, one name stuck out for not being on the list.”

“Ben Roethlisberger of Miami (Ohio) and Tulane’s J.P. Losman are among 20 college prospects who will come to Pittsburgh to be evaluated for the draft. Philip Rivers of North Carolina State will not.”

“It’s a smokescreen,” one NFL general manager said yesterday at the league meetings. “Rivers is the guy they want.”

The Steelers have the 11th overall pick in the draft and Rivers is said by many to be the quarterback they are targeting.

“We want to bring people in we realistically think we have a chance to get,” Colbert said. “We’re not going to bring people in we don’t think we have a chance to get.”

“Why Roethlisberger and not Rivers?”

“We may have a realistic chance to get him,” Colbert said.”

Most experts had Eli Manning ranked as the best quarterback available that year, with Roethlisberger generally viewed as the consensus No.2 over Rivers. However, this reprinted article from the Sporting News in 2004 was not 100-percent sure that Manning was the better player.

This mock draft from The Sporting News on April 7, 2004, has Manning going No.1 to the San Diego Chargers, Roethlisberger No. 3 to the Arizona Cardinals, Rivers dropping all the way to No.20 and the Miami Dolphins and the Steelers ending up with Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones at No.11. Ew!

And unlike many of the young quarterbacks of today, Roethlisberger actually threw the ball at the NFL Scouting Combine when he went.

Thankfully, things ended up a little bit differently and the rest is history, with several of these scouting reports painting a fairly accurate picture of the quarterback Roethlisberger would become.

Scouting report from

Positives: Tall, mobile passer with long arms, thick legs and good quickness, balance and change-of-direction agility … Shows good fluidity and quickness in his pass set … Very good at reading defenses, showing patience and the ability to pick apart zones … Has an above-average, snappy release and excellent arm strength … Generates good velocity behind his deep tosses and is equally accurate throwing from the pocket or on the move … Shows great poise in the pocket and is never rattled by pressure … While he does not have blazing speed to escape, he does show good mobility to roll away from the rush and step up to avoid the sack … Has the powerful leg drive needed to break tackles and move the chains when running with the ball … Has a compact throwing motion and excellent touch (knows when to take something off the ball, when needed) … Has a fluid over-the-top throwing motion and shows consistency throwing from the opposite hash … Will sit in and take a hit vs. the blitz, yet still make the proper throw … Would look to run at the first sign of pressure earlier in his career, but over the years, has settled down, showing patience in the pocket while trying to locate his secondary targets … Effective emergency punter who does a nice job of angling his kicks toward the sidelines.

Negatives: Puts nice zip behind his passes, but his long ball will wobble at times (throws better from the right hash than left) … Needs to put some air under the ball when his receivers break open … Shows patience in the pocket but will try hard to make the play, resulting in throwing into coverage at times … Loses sight of his deep receivers when rolling out and on bootlegs … Despite his speed, he is not a great runner, relying more on overpowering the defender rather than eluding him … His deep tosses will sometimes take off at a low trajectory and high velocity … While he is quick to pick up the blitz, he needs to improve a little on reading zone coverage (needs to do more play action and misdirection, but shows confidence when his receivers work in man coverage, as opposed to the zone).

This scouting report from the Sports Forecaster projected Roethlisberger’s long-term future as a “star veteran big-game quarterback”, providing this analysis:

“Calm under pressure. Has a great arm and can make all the throws, including an accurate deep ball with superb timing. Highly instinctive and creative: can make things happen when the play breaks down, improvises very well, and makes it hard for tacklers to bring him down. Not mobile and takes too long waiting in the pocket for ideal target situations to unfold; gets sacked too much as a result (contributing to his durability issues). Still throws too many pickoffs. Has been in a worrisome amount of off-field trouble.”

From James Alder, NFL Draft expert at

“Positives –

Ben Roethlisberger has everything you look for in a franchise quarterback. He’s got the big arm, but he also has excellent accuracy (69.1%) and nice touch. He is a pure pocket passer with excellent size and he moves around in the pocket well. He also has great escapability, often making the first defender miss. He also throws with incredible accuracy on the run… especially for a player his size.”

“Negatives –

There’s not much to dislike about Roethlisberger’s game. The only knock on him is that he played in the MAC, but with guys like Pennington and Leftwich coming out of the conference in recent years, I doubt his draft status will be adversely affected.”

From Sports Illustrated‘s NFL Draft Experts.

“Positives – Big-armed pocket passer with the ability to grow into a franchise quarterback. Sets up to deliver the ball with solid footwork, stands strong in the pocket and smart. Sells the ball fakes, scans the field and consistently finds the open pass-catcher. Senses the rush yet buys as much time as possible, waiting for the last second before releasing the ball. Rarely panics, in complete control of the offense and a true leader behind center. Natural looking off the safety, throws with a fluid over delivery and possesses a big arm. Drives deep passes downfield, puts zip on the intermediate routes as well as velocity on all his throws. Throws tight spirals and beautifully arches deep throws. Leads receivers over the middle and very accurate. Gets outside tackle and accurate passing on the move. Does not make poor decisions and always working to make positive plays.”

“Negatives – A pocket passer with marginal mobility and cannot escape the rush. Must improve his downfield accuracy as well as the placement of the outs. Majority of snaps are taken out of the shotgun.”

And From the late Joe Stein, NFL Draft expert for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“It’s remarkable how far he has come in such a short time. Until his senior year in high school, he was a receiver. Yet, he was talented enough to take the Mid-American Conference by storm. That might not seem like a ringing endorsement on the surface, but remember that the last two MAC quarterbacks to do that were Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, both of whom appear to have bright NFL futures. Roethlisberger, who declared himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior year, has a good pro arm, is more athletic than Eli Manning and Philip Rivers and sees the field well. Scouts generally believe he has the highest upside of this year’s QB crop, but also represents the greatest risk because of his limited experience.”

In hindsight, it is hard to imagine that the Giants and Chargers would not like to have a do-over on their selections for that year.