clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ben Roethlisberger takes his rightful spot among the Top Tier QBs in the NFL

There was once a time when media didn’t believe Ben Roethlisberger was one of the best of the best, but there is no question about this anymore.

NFL: Preseason-Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when Pittsburgh Steelers fans would be furious with the NFL national media when rankings of quarterbacks would be released. Ben Roethlisberger would typically be ranked in the middle of the pack, but over time Roethlisberger has slowly developed his game, and others have noticed.

In ESPN’s most recent article where they rank the quarterbacks in ‘tiers’, Roethlisberger takes his place among the top of the group, where he belongs — in the Top Tier.

Check out ESPN’s guidelines for the tier system, as well as the description of Roethlisberger, and why he was ranked where he was:

This marks my fourth annual NFL QB Tier rankings, featuring an expert panel that was our largest one yet. Fifty league insiders placed 36 QBs into one of five tiers, with Tier 1 reserved for the best and Tier 5 for the worst.

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady were again the only unanimous Tier 1 selections, but they had fresh company in the top grouping. Colin Kaepernick, though unsigned, came in ahead of eight potential starters. There was also some drama, as the 49th and 50th ballots collected determined which tiers Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott fell into.

The higher the tier, the less help the quarterback needs to be effective, especially when circumstances inevitably call for him to flourish in pure passing situations -- those highly pressurized times when handing off or running with the ball do not cut it, and the quarterback must win from the pocket for his team to have a chance.

The breakdown of our 50 voters this year: Nine general managers, six pro personnel directors, five other executives, five head coaches, seven offensive coordinators, six defensive coordinators, five defensive assistants, three analytics directors, two quarterbacks coaches and two national scouts.

Rookie quarterbacks have been excluded from this file, due to a lack of information for our panel to judge.

There were the criteria, and now it comes down to what they had to say about Big Ben:

No. 3 — Ben Roethlisberger

Previous Rankings:
2014: 7th
2015: 4th
2016: 3rd

The 50th and final ballot collected broke a tie between Roethlisberger and Drew Brees for the third overall spot. Roethlisberger checks several of the Tier 1 boxes. He can carry the Steelers' offense and win playoff games doing so. The question was whether Roethlisberger did these things consistently enough to earn the highest respect.

"There is nothing that is not a [Tier] 1 about that guy," an offensive coordinator argued. "He is awesome. I heard that at their quarterback meetings, they sit and talk about golf, and he just goes out there and he is just competing and winging it and he kills everybody every week. He saves plays with his feet, he moves around and it is never too big for him."

A defensive coordinator who placed Roethlisberger in the top tier cursed six times in his first six sentences when asked about the Steelers' quarterback. Those were curse words born of respect from years of playing against Roethlisberger. "I am looking at this and saying if you put it on his shoulders every time, I think he can consistently win," this defensive coordinator said. "If you said, 'All right, Ben, we need you to throw it 55 times this game, as a defensive coordinator, I'm thinking, 'F---.'"

That might have been what the Broncos were thinking in Week 15 of the 2015 season, which was the last time Roethlisberger attempted that many passes. Denver owned one of the greatest defenses in recent NFL history that season. Roethlisberger completed 40 of 55 attempts for 380 yards and three scores as Pittsburgh overcame a 27-13 halftime deficit to win the game. It was a Tier 1 performance, for sure.

Still, a defensive-minded head coach said he thought Roethlisberger was much better when asked to throw the ball 25-30 times in a more balanced offense, whereas Brady could be effective more consistently without keeping defenses guessing. A defensive coordinator who placed Roethlisberger in the second tier said Roethlisberger and Cam Newton are freelancers for better and worse, and that Roethlisberger is simply better than Newton at it.

"He still carries that team when he is in there," an offensive coordinator said, "but I would have to say he is a [Tier] 2. Some weeks he is a 1, some weeks he is a 2. For me, that kind of qualifies him as a 2. I think when he has got extremely talented people around him, he is a good player, but he doesn't lift the level of the team all the time."


Regardless of what others may think, like some who placed votes in these rankings, the Steelers, and their fan base, are more than happy to have No. 7 as their quarterback. He is the man who has led the team to 3 Super Bowls, and won 2 of them. Regardless of ‘tiers’, the man they call Big Ben is Pittsburgh through and through.

Take a look at the complete QB rankings in this Tiered system:

Tier 1

1. Tom Brady
1. Aaron Rodgers
3. Ben Roethlisberger
4. Drew Brees
5. Matt Ryan

Tier 2

6. Andrew Luck
7. Derek Carr
8. Philip Rivers
8. Matthew Stafford
10. Russell Wilson
11. Eli Manning
12. Cam Newton
13. Kirk Cousins

Tier 3

14. Dak Prescott
15. Joe Flacco
16. Carson Palmer
16. Marcus Mariota
18. Jameis Winston
19. Andy Dalton
20. Alex Smith
21. Carson Wentz
22. Ryan Tannehill
23. Sam Bradford
24. Jay Cutler
25. Tyrod Taylor

Tier 4

26. Trevor Siemian
27. Mike Glennon
28. Colin Kaepernick
29. Blake Bortles
30. Paxton Lynch
31. Brian Hoyer
32. Jared Goff
33. Tom Savage
34. Josh McCown
35. Brock Osweiler
36. Cody Kessler