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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger finally considered 'elite' by ESPN.com

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Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers always feel slighted over Ben Roethlisberger's place in the QB standings, but it looks as if a stellar 2014 season has finally put the QB in the 'elite' category according to ESPN.com.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows the names always associated with those 'top tier' or 'elite' quarterbacks in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and even Andrew Luck has found his way onto most lists on a consistent basis. However, one name which is always on the cusp of 'elite' is Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. As always, fans never feel Roethlisberger gets the credit he deserves, but as Bob Dylan would say, "The times the are a-changin'".

Mike Sando of ESPN.com recently produced an intriguing article which places every NFL quarterback into a 'tier'. The top tier would be the elite quarterbacks, and so on. Take a look at Sando's process around placing quarterbacks in the tier where they belong:

The process was straight forward: The coaches and evaluators I polled placed each of the 32 projected starters into one of five tiers, with Tier 1 reserved for the very best and Tier 5 reserved for the very worst.

While it's far from rigid, our NFL front office and coach voters typically categorized the tiers as follows:

• Tier 1 quarterbacks can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help.
• Tier 2 QBs are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.
• Tier 3 are quarterbacks who are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tougher to contend at the highest level.
• Tier 4 is typically reserved for unproven starters or those who might not be expected to last in the lineup all season. Voters used the fifth tier sparingly.

With the process explained, it was looking at tier one which finally saw Roethlisberger's name underneath it which will certainly make Steelers Nation happy across the globe. See what Sando had to say about Roethlisberger being placed in the 'elite' category heading into the 2015 season.

4. Ben Roethlisberger | Pittsburgh Steelers

Average rating: 1.37 | Change in rating: +25.7%

2014 Rank: 7

Roethlisberger ascended into the top tier after ranking with Philip Rivers atop the second tier one year ago. His ability to carry the Steelers without support from a strong defense raised Big Ben's profile for some. A head coach said he thought Roethlisberger would have belonged in the top tier for most of his career if the Steelers had run a more wide-open offense earlier in his career.

"He throws to win games by himself and he can do it every week," an offensive coach said. "He could throw for 350 every week. I did not give him his due until I really saw this past year, with the average defense and only one top receiver, getting it done every week and keeping his interceptions down."

An evaluator with coaching experience who saw Roethlisberger play live twice last season moved him into the top tier on his ballot.

"He is back to standing there, shrugging off the blitz, sliding over, making the pass, over and over," this evaluator said. "He threw for over 600 yards with six touchdowns against Baltimore. When you can do that against what has been a good defense historically, that is a 1, and I don't want to play him."

Roethlisberger has topped 630 drop-backs in each of the past two regular seasons, while averaging 37.3 pass attempts per game, up from 29.6 per game previously in his career. Roethlisberger also has the playing strength and arm to carry the offense in poor weather.

"Ben can beat you in any part of the country," a head coach said. "Who was in a more productive offense last year? The productivity is unbelievable. He is clearly a 1 to me."

A defensive coordinator placed Roethlisberger among the 2s because he thought consistency over time was an issue.

"I could see why people would say he is a 1," this coordinator said. "On some days, I could see it. I would see him spending more time in the 2 category, and that is why I put him there."

Although Steelers fans, along with Roethlisberger himself, would rather see another Lombardi trophy brought back to the Steel City compared to their star quarterback finally being called a Top Tier or Elite quarterback, Roethlisberger getting the credit he deserves heading into the 2015 season will surely peak the interest of fans everywhere. Roethlisberger and company will look to build on an incredible offensive performance last season by being one of the best offensive units in the entire NFL, and solidifying Roethlisberger's place among the NFL's best on a yearly basis.

Sando's complete list of Tier 1 QBs:

T-1: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
T-1: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
3: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
6. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints