Sunday night, after jumping up and down while screaming, "Go JuJu!" over and over again during the franchise record-setting 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to JuJu Smith-Schuster, I thought, "Well, I was wondering when I'd see another one of those from No. 7."
Understand that the sight of Roethlisberger dropping back into his own end-zone to unleash a pass that’s pulled in downfield and taken 90-plus yards had become a familiar one in years past—on a par with Troy Polamalu doing something unworldly like intercepting a football when it was barely half an inch off of the ground.
Years before Roethlisberger came along, the thought of a Steelers quarterback connecting with a receiver on a 90-yard-plus play was something left to my imagination, or at least to that lone highlight I watched over and over again of Mark Malone taking a pass from Terry Bradshaw in a game against the Seahawks in 1981 and setting a previous franchise record by going 90 yards for a score. (Quarterback Kordell Stewart and receiver Bobby Shaw teamed-up to tie that mark in a late-season win at Baltimore back in 2001.)
Interestingly enough, Malone, like Bradshaw, was a quarterback by trade, and four years later, the former tied the latter's franchise-best, single-game touchdown mark by tossing five against the Colts in the 1985 regular season opener at old Three Rivers Stadium.
Bradshaw and Malone held the five-touchdown record for years—that is until Roethlisberger came along and tied it in 2007 and again in 2011 (he also threw five against the Chiefs last season). But tying Bradshaw and Malone for the single-game touchdown mark was nothing compared to breaking it with six apiece in back-to-back wins over the Colts and Ravens in 2014.
Anyway, with this Bradshaw and Malone theme now firmly entrenched in your mind, perhaps it's fitting that Roethlisberger now owns the three longest touchdown passes in franchise history.
Three years later, Roethlisberger relegated Bradshaw's (and Stewart's) 90-yard pass-play to third place, when he connected with receiver Martavis Bryant on a 94-yard score in the fourth quarter of a win over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium (yours truly was in attendance for that play).
And now, after Sunday's hookup with Smith-Schuster, The Blond Bomber and Slash (and Malone—I mean why not?) are now in a tie for fourth place all-time, as Big Ben holds the gold, silver and bronze for longest touchdown passes in franchise history.
It’s been speculated that Roethlisberger doesn't really “have it" anymore, and can't make all the throws your standard franchise quarterback is supposed to make.
This may or may not be true, but we all know how much Roethlisberger loves the big play (he once said making quick passes all game was boring), and it's nice to see that throw is still in his arsenal.