If you’re a Steelers fan, you no doubt are aware of the constant lack of love for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as it pertains to his ranking on whatever list happens to be published on any particular day of the week.
And if you are a die-hard supporter of the black and gold, the continuous slight of No. 7’s abilities has to ruffle your feathers just a little, right?
I know I was a bit peeved the other day when I heard a couple of local radio talking heads discussing a list published by NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison where he ranked the 25 greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
Roethlisberger was 19th on said list, and as I listened to this discussion, all I could think about was how low that ranking seemed. “Once again, Big Ben is dissed,” I said out-loud to nobody in particular as I sat in traffic on Greentree Road. “This makes me so gosh darn angry!”
Here’s what Harrison had to say about his ranking of Roethlisberger among the all-time great passers in league history:
“Maybe the most difficult guy on this list to rate. Roethlisberger has, at times, played brilliantly. He led the NFL in passing yards in 2018 (5129), his 15th season. He posted a passer rating of 98.1 and went 14-1 as a starter during his first season (including the playoffs). He’s won two Super Bowls, and started a third. On those merits alone, he should probably go higher than 19th here. Then again, has Roethlisberger ever been the best or second best player at his position? Another question: How often has he been the center of a distraction to the team? Roethlisberger is a Hall of Famer right now. How high he climbs on the list of all-time great quarterbacks might depend on the next couple of seasons.”
Here we go again, with the Ben hate, right? Talk about your lukewarm description of a great career.
But after a day or two of thinking about things and, you know, looking at the actual list, my anger dissipated.
I mean, it wasn’t like Roethlisberger was ranked 19th among current quarterbacks—or among passers named Ben.
Cracking the top-20 of all-time great NFL quarterbacks is pretty darn special (even if it’s on a list compiled by some guy named Elliot—no disrespect to people named Elliot). It’s especially impressive when five of the six men on the list behind Roethlisberger are named Van Brocklin, Dawson, Tarkenton, Moon and Kelly—all Hall of Famers—respectively.
The more I think about it, this is one list involving Roethlisberger that is actually spot-on.
You may object to someone like Russell Wilson being one spot ahead of Roethlisberger on this list. You may even bristle that a Roethlisberger contemporary—Aaron Rodgers—is rated seven spots higher on the list. But I think Roethlisberger is right where he belongs.
To Harrison’s point, Roethlisberger has never really been the best player at his position during his career—probably not even the second best. Furthermore, he’s never been named an NFL or Super Bowl MVP.
He’s just been a really good quarterback, and it would actually be hard to justify putting Roethlisberger higher on the list, ahead of people like Bart Starr, Steve Young or even Troy Aikman.
When I look at the list, I’m more amazed that Brett Favre is ranked 12th—or two spots behind Rodgers. If a three-time NFL MVP can’t even crack the top-10, Roethlisberger is slotted just right at 19th.
The top-10 is obviously a who’s who of NFL quarterback royalty, and quite frankly, Roethlisberger would look out of place if he were ranked among those folks.
My only quibble with Harrison is the part where he said Roethlisberger has “at times, played brilliantly.” That’s a description that, to the untrained eye, would tell you that No. 7’s been wildly inconsistent over the course of a career that’s about to reach its 16 season.
We’re talking about a man that has passed for over 56,000 yards. We’re talking about a man who has averaged almost twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. We’re talking about a man with a 94.2 career passer-rating. We’re talking about a man who, as Harrison noted in his article, has averaged the second-most passing yards in league history after the age of 30 (290.3). (Drew Brees, ranked sixth on Harrison’s list, is number one in that category.) That’s not the career of a quarterback who only plays brilliantly on occasion.
Harrison implies that Roethlisberger may still have time to move up the ladder depending how the final years of his career play out. He, of course, is referring to Roethlisberger winning another Super Bowl title or two (perhaps with a league or Super Bowl MVP thrown in for good measure).
However, if Terry Bradshaw, a four-time Super Bowl winner, two-time Super Bowl MVP and one-time league MVP, is only ranked 17th, it seems unlikely winning more hardware will do much for Roethlisberger’s legacy.
But that’s okay. If you want to say Ben Roethlisberger is the 19th greatest quarterback in NFL history, I will tell say that’s more than fair.