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Big Ben or Bradshaw? Who is the Steelers’ ultimate franchise quarterback?

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Answering one of the most difficult questions for Steelers fans to ponder.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

To most, the question of who is the best franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger or Terry Bradshaw, is like asking a Pittsburgh Steelers fan to pick their favorite child.

There are those in the Roethlisberger camp who point to his gaudy statistics, and then there are those who reside in the Bradshaw camp who point to four Super Bowl wins in four tries.

Steelers fans should realize how lucky they are to root for a franchise which has had two quarterbacks with the success of Bradshaw and Roethlisberger. Nonetheless, NFL.com took a stab at not just debating this topic, but actually picking a winner.

Check out what author Ali Bhanpuri had to say about who was eligible for the label as THE franchise quarterback:

Who qualifies for the Steelers?

-- Ben Roethlisberger (2004-present): 214 starts | 144-69-1 | 6 Pro Bowls | 94.2 passer rating | 2 SB rings

-- Kordell Stewart (1995-2002): 80 starts | 46-29 | 1 Pro Bowl | 72.3 passer rating

-- Neil O’Donnell (1991-95): 61 starts | 39-22 | 1 Pro Bowl | 81.8 passer rating

-- Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983): 158 starts | 107-51 | 3 Pro Bowls | 70.9 passer rating | 1 MVP | 4 SB rings

So, who was the winner? And what was the reasoning behind this decision? Check out why, and how, the Blonde Bomber edged out Big Ben for the title of THE franchise quarterback.

THE Franchise QB: Terry Bradshaw

This was one of the toughest calls in the entire exercise, and I expect to get some heat for it. But when I think of the Steelers’ franchise, I think of the ‘70s teams that won four Super Bowls in six seasons, establishing one of the most dominant dynasties the NFL has ever seen. And although the defense was the driving force leading those squads, Bradshaw and the offense more than did their part, ranking ninth or better in each of those six seasons.

Trying to argue that Bradshaw played the position better than Roethlisberger would be a dumb take and a waste of time. Big Ben has been a top-12 quarterback for much of his career, and his Steelers passing records won’t be sniffed for decades (at least). But many of the benefits Bradshaw enjoyed during his career -- and which people often hold against him (world-class defense, Hall of Fame-caliber offensive playmakers, etc.) -- also apply to Roethlisberger. And the edge one would assume Roethlisberger possesses playing in today’s pass-happy era doesn’t actually hold up so well when you compare the two stars’ playoff stats:

Bradshaw: 14-5 | 57.2 comp. % | 8.4 Y/A | 30 TD passes | 26 INTs | 83 passer rating

Roethlisberger: 13-8 | 62.4 comp. % | 7.8 Y/A | 30 TD passes | 24 INTs | 86.5 passer rating

The narrowest of margins separates these two franchise passers, and the scales could certainly sway in Roethlisberger’s direction with one wave of a Terrible Towel. But 4 > 2, so Terry wins -- for now.

Picking between these two tremendous quarterbacks isn’t easy, and while I want everyone to vote in the poll below to let us know who you like in this debate, realize many of the Steelers fans who read/comment on the articles at this establishment were not old enough to remember watching Bradshaw, or are too young to know the full extent of No. 12’s career in Pittsburgh.

Neither quarterback was perfect, and both have accomplished a ton in their time with the Steelers. While Roethlisberger still has time left on his career, taking what we know right now, who would you pick in this debate? Vote in the poll below, and be sure to let us know in the comment section why you voted the way you did!

Poll

Who is the Steelers’ best franchise quarterback?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Terry Bradshaw
    (747 votes)
  • 48%
    Ben Roethlisberger
    (708 votes)
1455 votes total Vote Now