By Jeremy Hritz
Prior to the 2011 season, there was no doubt of who was the premier quarterback from the 2004 NFL Draft. Ben Roethlisberger, selected 11th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers, sported a resume jeweled by three Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl victories, and an aptitude for last minute victories. The success he had experienced in his short career carried more weight than the other quarterbacks that were drafted in the first round the same year as Roethlisberger.
But after the New York Giants Super Bowl win against New England Patriots, Eli Manning has now knocked a leg or two from underneath of that table.
All offseason long, the debate will continue: is Eli better than Ben?
There is no doubt who the current top three quarterbacks in the league are (in no specific order): Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady (Peyton Manning stays off this list until he proves that he is healthy enough to play). Also in that elite class are Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Or is it Manning, then Roethlisberger?
Both quarterbacks are two-time Super Bowl winning champions, yet Roethlisberger has played in three. In both of Manning’s championships, he led his team to fourth quarter comebacks, and ultimately earned the Most Valuable Player Awards in both contests. Roethlisberger has yet to earn an MVP honor, and without it, concedes an advantage to Eli. Additionally, when comparing overall performances in the Super Bowl, outside of the Arizona game, Roethlisberger has not played particularly well, whereas Manning has shined. The advantage even goes to Manning when considering fourth quarter comebacks overall, with Manning at 21 and Roethlisberger at 20.
Let’s take a look at some overall statistics of importance to compare Manning and Roethlisberger:
|CAREER||QB Rating||Completion Percentage||Yards||Yards Per Attempt||TDs||INTs||Overall W/Ls||Overall Post-Season W/Ls||Postseason TDs||Postseason INTs|
*Indicates best performance in category.
When examining the significant statistical categories above, Roethlisberger leads Manning in seven out of the ten categories. Most significant in this comparison is that Roethlisberger has thrown fewer interceptions in the regular season (29 less) and has won 16 more games overall. Conversely, Manning has thrown for 20 more touchdowns in the regular season and 10 fewer interceptions that Roethlisberger in the postseason. Ultimately, when looking closely at the data, Roethlisberger and Manning are reasonably similar. While Ben and Eli compare well to each other, and despite Manning’s two Super Bowl MVP Awards, the slight edge has to go to Ben as the fourth best quarterback in the National Football League because of his constancy. Ultimately, a quarterback’s primary responsibility is to win games, and Roethlisberger has show consistently, since his first year in the league, that he is more than capable, even more so than Eli, with a .714 winning percentage. Also to be considered is that during Ben’s eight year career, he has posted a 90.1 or higher quarterback rating, while Manning in that same eight year period has only topped that mark twice. Most importantly, when it comes to protecting the football in the regular season, Manning has accounted for 160 total turnovers, nearly five more turnovers per year than Roethlisberger.
However, Ben must take heed and raise his performance to another level in the upcoming season, otherwise he risks being overtaken by Manning, especially if Manning continues to play at the level that he did during in 2011. Hopefully, with a new offensive coordinator in the detonative Todd Haley, Roethlisberger will improve at connecting on more scoring throws in the red zone in 2012. He also needs to show that he still has the magic to save the baby from the burning house, a magic that if cast against Green Bay last year would have obviated the current Eli vs. Ben debate.
The promising reality of the Steelers and of Roethlisberger is that all of the pieces are in place for another run at a ring. Interestingly enough, Roethlisberger will have an opportunity in the run for another championship in 2012 to face off against his first-round, draft-class brethren. The Steelers will travel to the “New” Meadowlands next season for a game being hyped by fans as the possible NFL season opener. And while that is a long ways away, something tells me that it is already on Ben’s mind.