Earlier this off-season, long-time Steelers beat reporter Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called Ben Roethlisberger the best quarterback in franchise history, better than Hall-of-Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.
Along with two more Super Bowl victories, a National Football League Most Valuable Player Award is another piece of hardware Bradshaw has that Big Ben has yet to obtain. But after looking at the schedule that includes five prime time games and a bevy of contests against several of the other best quarterbacks in the league, Roethlisberger will have the platform to be the first Steelers player to win the league MVP award since Bradshaw won the award in 1978.
An owner of two Super Bowl rings, Roethlisberger will face off against four other Super Bowl champions that includes Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning. Big Ben will also square off against 2013 Pro Bowler Alex Smith and five-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers. In Week 2, Roethlisberger and the Steelers will face the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick, who guided San Francisco to an NFC championship in 2012.
While Roethlisberger will face off against the old guard of quarterbacks in Brady and Manning, he'll also face arguably the best young quarterback in pro football in Andrew Luck. The 25-year-old Luck has earned Pro Bowl selections while guiding the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. With a 33-15 record, an 86-43 touchdown-to-interception ratio and nearly 13,000 passing yards, many experts are already comparing Luck to his future Hall-of-Fame predecessor in Indianapolis. The Steelers Week 13 match-up with the visiting Colts is a re-match of Pittsburgh's 51-34 win over Indianapolis in Week 8 of last year. Roethlisberger and the Steelers outplayed Luck and the Colts on that day, as Big Ben filled the sky with footballs to the tune of 40-for-49 passing for 522 yards and six touchdowns.
Despite a glittering 11-year career that includes a near 94 career passer rating, a 63.7 career completion percentage mark, a starting regular season record of 106-52, a playoff record of 10-5 with three AFC titles and two Super Bowl wins, Roethlisberger is often excluded from the conversation of today's elite quarterbacks. It's been said that Big Ben was merely a game manager during the Steelers' 2005 Super Bowl run, and that his defense and surrounding talent on offense were the main components for his early success in the league. It could also be his gritty style and his off the field issues earlier in his career that leaves football "experts" leery of including Roethlisberger among the game's best signal callers.
Over the past several seasons, the Steelers have gone through a transition from a powerful run and defensive unit to an elite passing team centered around the talents of Big Ben. Roethlisberger has thrived in this role, throwing for 9,413 yards to go with 60 touchdowns and just 23 interceptions while completing nearly 66 percent of his passes. More importantly, he's led the Steelers to a 17-7 record in their last 24 regular season games.
Last season, Ben Roethlisberger proved he can be lead Pittsburgh to success as the team's catalyst, and with five prime time games this season, the opportunity to defeat several other elite quarterbacks and being armed with maybe the best offense in pro football, Roethlisberger has a chance to cement his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks of his or any era.