By this point in his career, the hand writing is already on the wall. Ben Roethlisberger will go down as one of the most disrespected, great players in NFL history whenever he decides to hang up the cleats. I really don't believe there is anything he could accomplish this season to change that in all honesty.
He could have a monster season, good enough to win his first MVP award, and lead the Steelers to their NFL record 7th Lombardi Trophy. It still wouldn't change how so many of the national sports media view him. They would simply utilize his late career success as further evidence that he could have accomplished so much more if he would have taken his conditioning more seriously, maybe studied the playbook a little more, or even been more coachable earlier on in his Steelers career. You know, be more like Tom Brady.
Well, I am here to tell you why that is totally inaccurate and utter nonsense. While many pundits will eagerly point out that Ben could never be like Brady, I will point out another obvious truth: Tom Brady could never play like Ben Roethlisberger. Brady would have never survived. He was never close to being tough enough to be a warrior like Ben. There, I said it. Now all the closet Brady fans can lose their minds fawning all over the GOAT, and tell me how crazy I sound. Prior to that inevitable response, read a little farther.
I am not arguing that Ben Roethlisberger is better than Tom Brady, or even that Brady isn't the GOAT. Regardless of my personal feelings or opinions about Brady, the numbers don't lie and Brady is the greatest winner in NFL history. He has accomplished all his success playing the toughest and most influential position in all of professional team sports. He will be at the top or near it in every conceivable statistical categories by his retirement. By the way, I almost forgot to mention he has not only played longer than any QB in NFL history, but he has achieved the most success at a later age than anyone ever. I definitely don't like the player, but you better believe that I have the utmost respect for his accomplishments.
I am not debating Brady versus Ben, merely pointing out that Ben Roethlisberger is a special player in his own right, an all time great actually. Roethlisberger is a old school warrior who could have played in any era. His toughness and will to win are legendary. Willing to battle every single play till the last instance trying desperately to make a game changing play. Not only is he on pace to retire in the top five in most passing categories himself, he will also go down as one of the winningest QBs in NFL history. Did I mention that he is getting ready to begin his 18th NFL season with the Steelers, a record for longevity and loyalty to a single franchise? That's a record that may never be broken in the free agent and salary cap era.
All that is well and good, but his numerous accomplishments mean nothing to some people. They will never forgive him for the arrogance of his youth. How he was surly, cocky, and filled with pride. He didn't appreciate his good fortune to be drafted by the greatest franchise in NFL history, to a loaded team simply in desperate need of a franchise QB. He enjoyed the most successful start to a NFL career for a QB, but he apparently took all his good fortune for granted. Then came the accusations and legal issues. More fuel for the haters fire. They already hated the Steelers, and Roethlisberger became the poster child for that hate.
Ben Roethlisberger is now a husband, father, and man of faith. He is a outstanding representative for the Steelers franchise and Steelers Nation. While he will never receive the respect he is due from the national sports media; or even from some in the fanbase, he is respected where it truly matters, by his most fierce rivals. Specifically the Baltimore Ravens.
Former Ravens standout LB Bart Scott made a comment about Ben a couple of days ago that reminded me of the respect reserved for Ben Roethlisberger the player from his opponents. After former NBA center Kendrick Perkins ranked Roethlisberger the worst QB in the AFC North, Scott couldn't hide his respect for Roethlisberger.
Scott said, "Big Ben is greatness. He won't be fully appreciated until he is gone." That is a small snippet of his complete statement, where he went into detail to defend his stance on Big Ben and the Steelers. The respect for Ben and the franchise was undeniable.
This means a lot coming from the man who laid one of the hardest hits this football fan ever witnessed on a NFL QB when he blew Roethlisberger up after being unblocked on a blitz attempt in a blowout victory for the Ravens in Baltimore. There have been precious few QBs over the years that wouldn't have been carted off the field after that vicious assault. That fact that Ben survived that train wreck of a collision, eventually walking off the field in intense pain, had to have made an impression on Scott and his teammates.
Through the years they have battered and bruised him repeatedly, even breaking his nose on one occasion. Through it all, he remained in the game and kept competing. If you believe that Brady would of or could have done the same, I would love to speak to you about investing in some beautiful ocean front property here in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
I have heard former Ravens greats Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs make similar statements about Roethlisberger. Their statements show proper respect for Ben's talent, toughness, and competitiveness. They know his ability and greatness more than most, because they have been on the wrong side of it numerous times.
That's all that really matters in the end. Having the respect of your opponents, especially in that intense rivalry, is more important than the accolades of the national sports media.
Greatness recognizing greatness when they see it, up close and personal. It's a beautiful thing in my opinion. Just saying.