Word is the Pittsburgh Steelers either live or die with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and that's very true--much like it is with any big-time quarterback.
However, following Pittsburgh's rather disappointing 16-10 loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field on November 1, a lot of fans took it a step further, when they said, "You either get good Ben or you get bad Ben. Today, you got bad Ben."
Roethlisberger had just made his first start after missing a month with a sprained MCL, and he proceeded to throw three interceptions and just one touchdown pass. Of course, when those fans said that about Roethlisberger, they made it seem like Big Ben vs. Bad Ben was a 50/50 proposition most Sundays, but if you examine his career statistics that include almost 41,000 passing yards, a nearly two-to-one touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio and a 94.0 passer-rating, there's no way that's true.
Back in the 1970s, before the West Coast offense and the dink and dunk philosophy were a thing, and Terry Bradshaw (212 career touchdowns to 210 career interceptions) would do stuff like turn the football over a bunch of times in the Super Bowl and also throw a bunch of touchdowns while being named game MVP (this happened twice in the late '70s), you could say there was Good Terry or Bad Terry.
But those days are over, because in today's day and age, it's almost impossible to throw a bunch of touchdowns in the same game that you throw a bunch of interceptions, without either getting benched or completely humiliated by Pro Football Focus. And even if you do survive those aforementioned scenarios, there's no way you're getting named MVP of the game--not even Fox's Thanksgiving Day game where they give the MVP some Turducken on the post-game show.
No, Good Ben vs. Bad Ben is not true, but the old parity thing, that's been a part of the NFL since ground-breaking Commissioner Pete Rozelle came up with the idea back in the 1960s.
Former NFL head coach and studio analyst Sam Wyche once was credited with saying that, while watching film of every NFL team before the start of the season, it was fairly easy to pick-out the ones who were going to win 13 or 14 games and the ones who were going to do the opposite. As for the other two-dozen or so? Only a few plays over the course of the season would be the difference between finishing anywhere from 10-6 to 6-10.
With the NFL's toughest schedule (at least on paper), a preseason injury to center Maurkice Pouncey and the suspensions that receiver Martavis Bryant and running back Le'Veon Bell would be serving to start the regular season, there was no way one would not have lumped Pittsburgh into the parity category before 2015 even began.
Here we are in Week 11, and the Steelers (6-4) are firmly in the middle of a pack of teams that could still finish anywhere from below .500 to .500 to several games over .500.
Pittsburgh is two games back of the Bengals in the AFC North, a deficit that certainly looks much better now than it did three weeks ago, when Cincinnati left Heinz Field with a 7-0 record and a three and a half game lead over the 4-4 Steelers. But the real mind-blowing thing is if Pittsburgh would have actually won that game--a contest that was dominated by the home team for nearly four quarters--the Steelers would be 7-3 today and in a first place tie in the division.
Unfortunately, what separates the Steelers from first place right now are two Roethlisberger interceptions on two consecutive passes late in the fourth quarter of that pivotal game three weeks ago (one at the 5:34 mark; the other with 2:57 remaining), interceptions that led to 10 unanswered points and turned a 10-6 lead into a 16-10 loss.
So, while Bad Ben certainly isn't a thing the vast majority of time, his performance against the Bengals on November 1 is currently the difference between the team fighting tooth-and-nail for a division title and fighting for its playoff life.
Obviously, there are a lot of ways you can look at things. For example, you can optimistically point out that Pittsburgh has suffered more than its share of key injuries--including Roethlisberger's aforementioned MCL sprain, along with Bell's season-ending MCL tear--and is still leading the pack in the AFC wild card race and remains in the hunt for the AFC North title, thanks to the Bengals losing two-straight (including a 34-31 loss to the Cardinals Sunday night) and a rematch at Paul Brown Stadium looming on December 13. But you could also pessimistically state that the Steelers not only would be 7-3 right now, had they found a way to hold on against Cincinnati three weeks ago; they would be 8-2 and fighting for a bye week in the postseason, if Josh Scobee would have made even one more field goal against the Ravens on October 1 (not to blow your mind even more).
Just a few plays going in the positive direction could have changed the narrative of these 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers quite significantly heading down-the-stretch.
Pete Rozelle would be proud.