The Moral of Manning: Don’t Take Ben Roethlisberger For Granted

By Jeremy Hritz

Though all football fans had time to prepare for it, the exit of Peyton Manning from his team of 14 years was saddening. As Colts fans across the United States reminisce about the insane statistics and abundant wins that Manning brought to the team, Jim Irsay and Chuck Pagano are preparing to begin the next era of Indianapolis football by selecting Andrew Luck as the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. If Luck’s college career is any indication, then the Colts should be set at the quarterback position for another significant stretch of time.

As Steelers fans, we can look upon the Manning situation objectively. However, within the next four to six years, or possibly sooner, we will all have to face the undeniable reality that Ben Roethlisberger will have to take his final snap.

The Manning situation is an opportunity for Steelers fans to take a moment to recognize and realize how fortunate the Steelers are to have a consistent and reliable franchise quarterback with a knack for winning games and championships because it simply cannot last forever. After the Hall of Fame career of Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers lurched into an epoch mangled by mediocrity, highlighted by run of the mill quarterback play by such dubious names as Mark Malone, Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, and Tommy Maddox. The fans who followed the Steelers teams (mis)led by these quarterbacks understand the absolutely crucial nature of the position. In between Bradshaw and Roethlisberger, excellent defenses and strong offensive weapons were undermined and wasted by tenuous quarterback play. If the Steelers would have had a Bradshaw or Roethlisberger-type QB with some of these teams, the current gap in championships between the Steelers and other NFL teams would be insurmountable.

We have been fortunate as Steelers fans since Roethlisberger came into the league. In his eight seasons, he has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl wins, three total Super Bowl visits, and four trips to the AFC Championship Game. That repertoire alone outshines most teams’ histories. And there is no reason to believe that Big Ben will not get one or two more Lombardis before he (or an injury) puts a bow on it.

Manning’s exit from Indy is a chime on a grandfather clock reminding all of the NFL teams with franchise quarterbacks that all things will come to pass. And that includes the Pittsburgh Steelers and dear old number seven.

And what will that day be like for the Steelers, when we bid our field general farewell? Roethlisberger stepping up to the podium, flanked by the Rooneys and Coach Tomlin, saying his goodbyes?

Nauseatingly painful to imagine, yet eventual.

There is another component here to consider. All prosperous and consistently effective companies and organizations whose success is dependent on effective leadership all have succession plans in place to ensure that when the primary leader leaves, they have somebody prepared and talented to step in and produce. While the Colts are in a fortuitous position of having the first round pick in a draft with a quarterback considered to be once in a lifetime, the Steelers probably will not have such luck. And with the multitude of injuries that Ben has experienced over his career, hopefully the Steelers have at least started to consider a succession plan. While probably not this year or next year, the Steelers would be wise to draft a quarterback in the later rounds who they believe could be groomed by Roethlisberger to be his replacement. For such a first class organization as the Steelers, it would not be a stretch to think that the Steelers have the beginnings of a plan in place.

Avoiding future mediocrity will depend on it.

  • Joe D

    Manning will be such an awesome QB coach…. and eventual HC someday!!
    Good luck to Manning.

  • israelp

    It’s not like a CEO. CEO’s replacement is groomed by doing other key jobs. QBs replacement hold a clipboard and occasionally mops up.

  • ed52

    This article highlights what I’ve been saying all along. I think most Steeler fans today don’t remember the gap between Bradshaw and Roethlisberger — top of the league defenses and mediocre offenses. We have a QB right now who is a winner. He was a winner from the moment he first hit the field. He also happens to be the most beat up QB in the league, the most sacked. We’re not taking care of him, protecting him with the best OL a team can buy…and we’re thinking about taking a NT or an ILB in the first round. Somebody please explain this to me.

  • John B.

    unfortunatly, i remember that gap. Thats why i’ve always stood behind Ben. He gets sacked alot, but he also wins alot so ometimes you gotta take the good with the bad. And i wouldnt want any other QB behind the o-line we have/had. Not Manning, Not Brady, Not Brees. He’s the perfect fit for the Steelers. Its like he was born for it. Hopefully Colbert is around when we draft the next QB of the future and we can continue succession when Ben hangs it up.

  • Dan

    Non-Steeler fans sure as hell don’t remember the Steeler teams of the 1990’s, or they wouldn’t be so quick to give all the credit for our recent success to the defense.

  • Dan

    I used to get annoyed by all the commercials with Peyton Manning in them, but lately I’ve been wanting to see him and Terry Bradshaw do a commercial together.

  • Heathicus

    He just turned 30 – I know he has an injury history, but I believe he can still play until at least 35, if not 37~. If we draft a prospect in 2 years, then he’ll be sitting the maximum 3 years under Roethlisberger and then we will be forced into a situation like Favre and Rodgers. Obviously, Rodgers turned out to be immense talent, but it’s not likely that we will find talent like that in the first place. We will either have to keep Roethlisberger if he’s still healthy then or trade/release him. New guy won’t sit 4 years.

  • ed52

    I’m not sure how you scout for this.
    How fast can you do a shuttle run? How high is your vertical leap?
    Can you come back after having your nose broke on the previous series?
    Ben comes walking off the field with his nose looking like an S-curve…and yet is back in the next series.
    This is the kinda stuff that doesn’t show at the combine.

  • kevin

    Another reason the Steelers likely will have to luck into another franchise QB is that they have not won less than 6 games since 1988. The only reason that they got Ben was because 2004 was an exceptional year for top QB talent.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    ed, Vick is actually the most hit QB in the league, but Ben isn’t all that far behind.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    He was pretty good as the coach of the Colts… :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    Not really. You are only looking at game days. There is a lot of film and mentoring and practice that goes on outside of that to get a guy ready for the NFL game.

  • ed52

    Wow…I wouldn’t have thought that for as fast and shifty as he is.

  • ed52

    OK…I wouldn’t have thought that given how fast and shifty Vick is.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5XBK7SSKCWKZ7F6RTJCVHABVI4 Steve Duncan

    I was surprised to see it, but it makes sense when you think of how often he stays in the pocket or tries to convert to the run.