J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans will be at Heinz Field Monday evening for a nationally televised Week 7 clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's kind of weird giving a defensive end (one who plays in a 3-4 scheme, no doubt) top billing before his actual team, but that's just how dominant Watt has been for most of his career that already includes 40.5 quarterback sacks in 54 games. (Did I mention Watt is a 3-4 defensive end?)
Watt deserves all the credit and the hype he's getting because the man is legit and he's about as dominant a defensive player as the NFL has witnessed in quite some time.
You knew that, of course. But what you might not know is that Ben Roethlisberger is one of the finest quarterbacks in the NFL, and really has been since he arrived in Pittsburgh as the Steelers' No, 1 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. (Like Watt, Roethlisberger was the 11th pick of his respective draft).
Unfortunately for Roethlisberger, he really hasn't acquitted himself very well so far in 2014. Sure, he has the yardage (1,593, which puts him on a pace to eclipse 4,200 yards for a second straight season); and he also has largely avoided costly mistakes, only turning the football over four times (three INTs and a fumble). This despite a sack pace that will see him taken to the turf roughly 45 times by season's end.
But while Roethlisberger's numbers are nice, where are the big plays? Where is that old Big Ben magic? They say a franchise quarterback is supposed to elevate his team and help keep it relevant with the NFL's big boys, even if the men he's elevating aren't as talented as the true Super Bowl contenders. But it's hard to elevate your roster when you only have eight touchdown passes in six games and are on pace for only 21 for the season.
For all the winning, the success and the championships, the one thing Roethlisberger never has truly been is the face of the franchise. Yes, he's obviously the most important component and the one player on the Steelers' roster who probably does get the superstar treatment former Penguins forward Max Talbot only thought he was getting in this old car commercial. But has No. 7 actually ever put the entire franchise on his back and carried it?
Obviously, for stretches he has (like on a certain Super Bowl-winning drive), but that Super Bowl XLIII team was ultra-talented. This current team really isn't and it probably won't get anywhere without the muscle of a big-time quarterback.
Yes, Watt is a superstar who might very well take over Monday night's game and elevate his already legendary status into the stratosphere, but Roethlisberger is the one guy on the Steelers' roster who's capable of taking over right now (at least one would still assume), and it's time he does that.
Maybe it's an over-hyped and oversimplified thing for someone to write, but man is it true.
The Steelers (3-3) are at a pivotal stage of their season, and after three consecutive, less-than-savory weeks of football preceded by two-plus years of pretty much the same, they need their top man to play like a top man.
Roethlisberger, 32, is either in the prime of his career or on the downside of it. If he's still in his prime, he needs to start showing it and soon. Putting up yardage is nice, but superstar quarterbacks are called that for a reason, and it's not just because they put up nice yardage.
In other words, it's time for Ben Roethlisberger to upstage J.J. Watt and be the player fans from coast-to-coast will be talking about on Tuesday morning.
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