Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Super Bowl XLIII | The game

Ben Roethlisberger takes command for Pittsburgh Steelers

TAMPA — The great ones are always, somehow, distinctive. Think of Joe Montana, and you recall the look of cool in a game's final minutes. With Dan Marino, it was the quickness and precision of his aim. And, though Joe Namath's numbers might have been smaller, the persona was larger than any the NFL had seen.

So, how then should we be thinking of Ben Roethlisberger today? He is not the game's most efficient passer. He is not the quickest or the most cerebral, and he does not immediately come to mind as the prettiest. Is he even worthy of the discussion? What, exactly, does Roethlisberger bring to this conversation? Just the one argument that is beyond dispute.

"He doesn't have the big numbers. He's not throwing for 4,800 yards or 40 touchdowns," said Pittsburgh's quarterbacks coach, Ken Anderson. "All he does is win."

And that is the real beauty of Roethlisberger. In a league where parity is law, Roethlisberger has pretty much defied convention from the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh. He set a league record for victories as a rookie quarterback, and the next season became the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

His career winning percentage in the regular season (.718) is better than every modern era quarterback in the Hall of Fame except for Roger Staubach (.746). His postseason winning percentage (.778) is also better than any recent Hall of Famers besides Bart Starr (.900).

None of this guarantees him a bust someday in Canton, and it doesn't even mean he is the best quarterback of his generation, but it suggests his legacy will look fine from a distance.

"The guy has a warrior's mentality," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "I don't think people realize how tough he is. Anybody that says otherwise doesn't know what they're talking about."

The very same thing that people criticize him for — he runs too much, he takes too many sacks, he subjects himself to too many hard hits — sets Roethlisberger apart from the rest.

He is not a cookie cutter quarterback. He will not sit in the pocket and calmly run a West Coast offense. The true genius of Roethlisberger comes out when all is going astray.

He gets out of jams that seem impossible. He completes passes on the move like a shortstop going up the middle. He brings a playground flair to a game that has become increasingly choreographed. Is it possible Roethlisberger has the arm of a quarterback, and the heart of a lineman?

"No, not a lineman. Ben Roethlisberger has the heart of a boxer," Steelers tackle Willie Colon said. "He always gets back up. He has the ability to, somehow, some way, pull it off when things look bad. You jab, jab, jab, and eventually he's going to knock you out. That's what a great quarterback, a great leader, does."

At one time, you might have debated whether he was driving the train, or just along for the ride. For as long as he has been in Pittsburgh, the defense has always been better than the offense.

And in Super Bowl XL, Roethlisberger was not the reason the Steelers won. He threw two interceptions, no touchdowns, and his passing rating of 22.6 was the lowest ever for a quarterback on the winning team.

For the past week, people have been asking Roethlisberger about making amends for that performance. That line of questioning, however, misses the point. Yes, Roethlisberger wants to play better. He has said it often enough himself.

But putting up flashy, Manning-like numbers is not what he does. And ego does not often get in the way of his decisions, sort of the way it has for Brett Favre in recent seasons. Roethlisberger does not have to be the lead singer in this band. He's just as comfortable in the rhythm section, making sure the beat is steady.

This is a quarterback who has weekly poker games at his home. He's the one who paid all of the expenses for his offensive linemen to fly to Chicago during an off weekend in November to celebrate center Justin Hartwig's 30th birthday.

In Super Bowl XL, the Steelers belonged to Jerome Bettis. To an offensive line that was older, and set in its ways. This time, Roethlisberger is the leader, even if he doesn't have to be the focal point.

"I don't know of any second-year quarterback who is a leader of a team. That just doesn't happen, so Ben wasn't as assertive," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "Back then, they didn't even give him the full array of the offensive playbook because they wanted to make sure he understood it and was comfortable with it. Now, five years in, he knows the playbook inside and out. He calls the plays on his own. The offensive coordinator has pretty much given him his discretion."

Eight retired quarterbacks have won two Super Bowls or more. Seven of them are in the Hall of Fame. By the end of this evening, Roethlisberger has a shot at winning two before his 27th birthday.

Will that make him a great quarterback?

I don't know, but it sure would make him distinctive.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com

"All eyes are on him. He has a presence in the huddle, a true leader. He definitely wants to go out there and show all the naysayers that he can perform well on the grandest stage of them all."

Steelers receiver Hines Ward, on Ben Roethlisberger

FAST FACTS

Ben Roethlisberger

Age: 26

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 240

Hometown: Findlay, Ohio

College: Miami (Ohio)

How acquired: 2004 draft (11th overall)

Career Highlights:

• 2004 offensive rookie of the year

• Led Steelers to Super Bowl XL win over Seattle

• Signed $102 million, eight-year deal in March 2008

Ben Roethlisberger takes command for Pittsburgh Steelers 01/31/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 8:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Archer has strong outing, with two mistakes

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Two pitches RHP Chris Archer didn't execute are the ones that stood out Thursday as Josh Donaldson hit them out of the park. But the two solo home runs aside, Archer turned in a sterling outing that went atop the pile of good pitching the Rays keep wasting.

    Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) works during the first inning. [Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP]
  2. Tim Tebow continues wowing fans as he wraps up bay area games

    Minors

    CLEARWATER — Tracey Fritzinger has seen Tim Tebow play baseball a few times this year. The 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident went to two of his games against the Tampa Yankees, along with Joy, her little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, middle, hangs out in the dugout during the first inning of Thursday night’s game against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 7:10 Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.
  4. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  5. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand

    Bucs

    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]