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Prime Nine: Best Year For Ben Roethlisberger In 2012?


By Jeremy Hritz

With the egress of Bruce Arians and the addition of Todd Haley, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be lining up opening night against the Denver Broncos with a new offense that apparently is so complex that Ben Roethlisberger labeled it the Rosetta Stone. While nobody has ever accused Ben of being a rocket scientist, the seasoned veteran should not have any issues in assimilating the new playbook and its offensive philosophies. If anything, Roethlisberger is entering his prime as an NFL quarterback, and if history is a predictor of the future, it is that elite quarterbacks in their ninth season have a penchant for winning.

Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski has said that the prime age for quarterbacks is “around 29 or 30,” and that “it’s that perfect storm where your physical talent meets your mental talent and it all comes together.” NFL players normally reach their ninth season when they turn 30, as is the case with Roethlisberger who turned 30 this past March and is entering his ninth season.

When examining the statistics of quarterbacks from their ninth season who either are already in the Hall of Fame or are first ballot Hall of Famers, there is a pattern of success. In this article, the following ten quarterbacks were analyzed: Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Drew Brees, John Elway, Brett Favre, Jim Kelly, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and Warren Moon (Tom Brady was omitted because he missed his ninth season due to injury) The table below lays out the most important statistical categories for these quarterbacks.

Current/Future Hall of Fame Quarterbacks in Ninth Season

Quarterback Cmp Att. % Yards TDs INTs Sck Rate Year W L Season Outcome
Brett Favre 341 595 57.3 4,091 22 23 35 74.7 1999 8 8 Missed Playoffs
Dan Marino 318 549 57.9 3,970 25 13 27 85.8 1991 8 8 Missed Playoffs
Drew Brees 363 514 70.6 4,388 34 11 20 109.6 2009 13 3 **Won Super Bowl
Jim Kelly 285 448 63.6 3,114 22 17 34 84.6 1994 7 7 Missed Playoffs
Joe Montana 266 398 66.8 3,054 31 13 22 102.1 1987 13 2 *Lost NFC Div.
John Elway 242 451 53.7 3,253 13 12 45 75.4 1991 12 4 *Lost AFC Champ
Peyton Manning 362 557 65 4,397 31 9 14 101 2006 12 4 **Won Super Bowl
Terry Bradshaw 207 368 56.3 2,915 28 20 21 84.7 1978 14 2 **Won Super Bowl
Troy Aikman 292 518 56.4 3,283 19 12 33 78 1997 6 10 Missed Playoffs
Warren Moon 224 346 64.7 2,521 18 12 16 89.3 1992 10 6 *Lost AFC Wildcard
AVERAGES 290 474 61.23 3,499 24.3 14.2 26.7 88.52 N/A 10.3 5.4
Roethlisberger AVG 261 414 63 3322 20 12 39 92 N/A N/A N/A

The most salient point revealed through this information is the success experienced by these quarterbacks in regards to their winning games. Of the ten listed, six made the playoffs and three won Super Bowls (Brees, Manning, and Bradshaw). Overall, these quarterbacks averaged ten wins and five losses. Considering how difficult it is to win a Super Bowl, it is significant that three Hall of Famers (current, future) won a championship in their ninth season.

In comparison to the passing numbers that are achieved in today’s game, the season nine averages are not exactly impressive. Of the ten quarterbacks on the list, only three of them posted quarterback ratings of 100 or higher, and only five threw for 25 or more touchdowns. For comparative purposes, in 2011, four quarterbacks posted a rating of 100 or higher, while nine quarterbacks threw for 25 or more touchdowns. This could possibly lend credence to the reliability of the quarterback rating (On average, from 2000 to 2011, an average of 2 quarterbacks achieved a quarterback rating of 100 or higher). How does Roethlisberger stack up when comparing his career averages to ninth year averages of the analyzed Hall of Famers? He is below the average in completions, attempts, yardage, touchdowns, and interceptions, while in the categories of completion percentage, sacks, and quarterback rating, he is above the average.

Statistically, the ninth seasons of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks do not appear as earth shattering in comparison of today’s QBs. However, the context of the time period in which they played must be considered for an accurate picture. The most telling aspect of this data is consistency of winning and winning the big game in season nine.

There are many reasons to feel optimistic about Roethlisberger heading into his ninth season at the ripe age of the 30. Firstly, he has yet to put up a statistically explosive year similar to that of a Brady, who threw for 50 touchdowns at 30 years of age, Manning, or Brees. Roethlisberger’s best numerical season occurred in Coach Mike Tomlin’s first season, 2007, when he threw for 32 touchdowns and a 104 quarterback rating (2007 was also Arians first year as offensive coordinator). Passing yards and quarterback rating are not everything, but they are indicators of quality play and they are correlated with scoring points. With weapons plentiful, and with an offensive guru in Haley, Roethlisberger could put up big numbers this season.

It also cannot be overlooked that Roethlisberger will be taking snaps behind what could be the best offensive line he has had since his first two seasons. Keeping him upright and on his feet will go a long way in making the offense adept at accumulating yardage, and consequently, points. Additionally, a better offensive line will produce a better running game which will take pressure off of Roethlisberger to carry the offense.

Roethlisberger experienced tremendous success as a young player in the league, yet he still has room for improvement. His value to the Steelers is unquantifiable, and with him in the lineup, the chances for victory are great. With eight seasons notched on his belt, his veteran awareness make 2012 a season in which he can elevate his play and the play of the team to new heights. Hopefully Roethlisberger, like his predecessor Bradshaw in his ninth season, can bring another championship to Pittsburgh.

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  • IsraelP

    There’s a guy named Elisha who is also entering his ninth season.

  • annoyed

    Do people realize #7 didn’t even have the playbook when he made the Rosetta Stone comment?

  • DoctorNoah

    Hopefully our talk about the offensive line finally clicking in place is not ridiculously premature. DeCastro should hopefully be a starter, but Adams has a lot to learn before he plays, and we have no idea about the health of Starks, the durability of Colon, or even whether Marcus Gilbert is going to make a difficult transition from RT to LT. It’s all a huge question mark, and it may come to pass that our O-line is as patchwork and inconsistent and rag-tag as it was last season. With Pouncey at C and DeCastro at RG, that’s helpful, and with Kemo gone and hopefully Scott as well, maybe we’re making the move in the right direction, but we have no clue what’s going to happen at tackle, and the young guys aren’t exactly proven yet. I think we can all name a number of early to mid round O-line draft picks that ended up failing in Pittsburgh.

    Couple those O-line red flags with a new and confusing playbook, an aging Heath Miller with no strong second TE yet, an unproven corps of RB’s, and a star WR that may miss learning the playbook because of contract issues, and the offense actually has the potential to be disastrous.

    I think everything will fall into place, personally, but I’m just saying that all this talk about how good our line is going to be, and how we have all the offensive weapons, is more than a bit premature. And considering how the offseason has changed with the new CBA, I hope that our players have enough time and opportunity to really learn the new system, make the technique improvements they need to make, and come together as a successful, cohesive offense.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Of the hall of fame QBs listed above, did any have to learn a new playbook in their 9th year? That is the unknown factor in predicting how Ben will do in his 9th year.

    Also, I agree with Noah about being cautiously optimistic. I remember last year’s talk about the Steelers having an advantage over other teams with the lockout because they brought back all of their veteran players. The first 4 games of the season quickly proved that wrong.

  • Bobby Bowers

    I’m 5’7″ with super small hands (my 40 time’s 2 days + 9 seconds on a fast track), and I’m tempted by the NFL’s big salaries… where can I get a try out, which team, please advise?

  • SteelersDepot

    you do know he has said it again since getting the playbook, right?

  • annoyed

    Yes, and he said something to the effect of I jokingly refer to it as the Rosetta Stone.

  • SteelersDepot

    so if he refers to it jokingly, than we can’t? he also has admitted that a lot has changed. can we refer to that too?

  • SteelersDepot

    I shall prepare you that I will be referring to the offense as the Rosetta Stone offense all season, pretty much just to annoy.

  • Jprankster2005

    Big Ben will lead the Steelers to number 7 and 8 in the next 3 yrs. I project with the first of the 2 coming this yr…… I think he will end his career with 5 super bowl apperances with 4 wins….

  • Jprankster2005

    Lol, And that’s why I like this site……. U ain’t afraid to say it how it is…….. I think it’s going to be a complete differnt offense then’s he’s ever seen…… And I think he will have the best years of his career in the next 3 seasons…….

  • Jprankster2005

    We shouldn’t worry about Starks, He’s a FA and won’t be signed back unless he’s 100 percent, And Decastro will be a pro bowl guard….. Adams will play a bit this season but probably won’t start until 2013, And starting this yr. unless we have major injuries, Guys like Essex, Legursy if Starks signs won’t play much unless someone get’s injured…… This is going to be a solid line for yrs. to come…… And it’s not premature talk, This line is the real deal and we do have some really good weapons in place, To the point of where a few good players that could be really good won’t even make the team because there won’t be room……. Guys like Rainey and Maze could do some damage with there speed and offer alot of plays with there ability….. And Miller will have a good yr. probably a career yr. with Haley’s offense….. But we do need depth and I don’t like Pope but will probably make the team because he follows Haley everywhere….. I think Paulsen could be the better TE but I do think next yr. we need to draft a TE in the first or 2nd round……. I would of loved a Fleener or Egnew, Would of offered another big Weapon……. But hey this is just my opinion…..We all have one…….

  • Jprankster2005

    U can probably try out with your local High School and see if they have an opening or a junior college……. Lmao why would u post a question like that…..U should of went to college and u would of got reconized with good stats, If u were able to…….Sounds like u missed your calling lol……

  • RPiezzi

    Until Ben accepts that he is no onger the biggest baddest guy on the block and begins throwing the ball away in obvious situations, he will not reach the heights.
    Sorry.With his size and talent (of which there is/was plenty, he has not made the best use of either.

  • Jeremy Hritz

    He has not made the best use? 2 Super Bowls?

  • Johnny Sins

    I think he will have a good year as always 95-100 qb rating, but I think the next year 2013-14 will be his best year with touchdowns and ratings, it’s a shame we kept Arians for so long, he should of gone after the Super Bowl XLIII. He held Ben and the offense back so much and now its time to do well under Haley. Thanks Chiefs.

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