Want to know what it is like to follow a team who simply can't find a franchise quarterback to save their own skin? Ask a fan of the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans what it is like. They'll most likely tell you it is a year-in and year-out struggle in their fandom.
This is where Pittsburgh Steelers fans can sit back and just smile. As quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been their main man since his rookie season in 2004, the team hasn't had to wonder who will be throwing passes entering a season in over a decade.
Sure, it hasn't always been pretty. There was the motorcycle accident, the sexual abuse accusations and of course the myriad of injuries throughout his career, but Roethlisberger is now a 33-year old quarterback who is in the prime of his career. Not only is he coming off his best statistical season, but he is about to captain one of the best offenses the Steelers organization has seen since it's creation in 1933.
Putting it simply: The Ben Roethlisberger we are all witnessing is as good as it is going to get, and fans would be wise to enjoy every second of the evolution process.
Roethlisberger's evolution started as a shaky rookie who made plays only when necessary. Instead, relying on a stout defense and a quality running game to help him get acclimated to the NFL game. Slowly but surely, Roethlisberger's role in the offense grew under Ken Wisenhunt, kept growing under Bruce Arians and has blossomed under Todd Haley.
It is easy to look at the highlight reel and realize what you are watching is a phenomenal quarterback. The proof is in the pudding and Roethlisberger has his share of pudding on his lengthy resume. However, there are things which don't necessarily go noticed by the average fan, but those who are much more knowledgeable know how great Roethlisberger is.
"He's the best he's been to this point since I have been here," Offensive coordinator Todd Haley told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "You can see that he has reached deep and turned it up another notch even though these are easy days not to be into it, but he has kept his focus, which is a lot of work when you have a lot of young people around you."
"I don't know if I have been around anybody who can do everything like him," Haley said.
Quite frankly, you would be hard pressed to find a quarterback who can do all that Roethlisberger does...ever. The way he moves around the pocket, sheds would-be tacklers and his unbelievable vision and arm strength make him one of the most unique quarterbacks to ever play the position. His ability to throw the football in a myriad of ways has caught the attention of teammates and coaches alike.
"We actually talked about that in the receivers room today," Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "He can throw the ball sidearm, over the top, everything."
"I have never been around a guy who can kind of change his throwing point in the middle of his delivery," backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said. "A receiver might do something different that we didn't practice, but (Roethlisberger) can still be accurate with the football. A lot of people don't understand how difficult that is. Ben's arm talent is just insane."
"Nobody else can do it," quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said. "I am serious: nobody. When you step up and all of a sudden a guy comes up and you have to throw it real fast, or when he has to lob it up there. You can't tell the guys that's how you do it because no, nobody does that."
"There are times that he doesn't even have the laces but makes perfect touch passes that are on the spot." Haley added.
You hear and read these comments and you realize just how special Roethlisberger is as a player, and as fans of the Steelers you should feel ecstatic about him being the quarterback of your favorite football team. The truth of the matter is Roethlisberger has at least 4 more years of great play in him, which makes it clear he is on the back-nine of his football career. When Terry Bradshaw retired, the Steelers QB position became a 'who's-who' from Mike Tomczak to Kordell Stewart to Tommy Maddox. Extremely rough years before No. 7 was drafted.
With that said, there is no doubt why Steelers fans endear Roethlisberger as one of their own, but let this serve as a friendly reminder to appreciate the play you are seeing in 2015 and beyond. It will be gone before you know it.