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That’s High Praise – Big Ben = Top 3 QB?


By Christopher DiMarino

For any of you that have read my work on Steelers Depot, you may know a few things about me. The one that relates to this article is how I like writing analysis pieces about articles on NFL.com. While I am a fan of football and a connoisseur of its subtle nuances, a better word to describe me is a critic. More accurately a hater. When I say hate, I don’t mean it in a derogatory manor but more as an art form. I just have passions about what players don’t do well. I also believe that consistency in play and playing to your “abilities” are underrated. As a result, I hate a lot of players in the NFL but I don’t view this as a bias because I am always open to changing my opinion. I think that it creates a unique opportunity for players to win my affection.

Enough about me, the point is that in an article I read, Jason Smith (probably my least favorite NFL.com writer) ranked the top quarterbacks in the league. He put Eli Manning at the top, which is a little crazy, but he did earn it this past season. Tom Brady was second and Ben Roethlisberger was third. What? I think that’s a little high. You might think that this article is a odd coming from a Steelers fan, but my neutrality gives me perspective so I have to call it as I see it. I love Big Ben, but the cold truth is that he’s not a top 3 QB. Elite? Yes. Top 10? Yes. In fact I’d probably put him sixth, behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning (barring injury issues).

I should preface this madness by complimenting Ben. I think he is easily a Hall of Famer. I think he still has his best years ahead of him. He’s a warrior and has certain qualities (toughness, extending plays) that no other quarterbacks can mirror. But he doesn’t give defenses the fear some of these other guys like Rodgers do. I “hate” Rodgers and instantly shoved this article in the faces of my Packer friends. Would I trade Roethlisberger for Rodgers? Honestly, I wouldn’t but that doesn’t make Ben better than Rodgers. I think Rodgers excels because of his system and how he was groomed. You could’ve put Ben in that same system and it wouldn’t have mattered because he has a unique identity as a quarterback. But if you put Rodgers in a new system, he might not achieve the same level of performance.

This article kind of sparked a concern that I’ve been developing over the past few seasons. I’m not worried where Ben’s heart is, the guy is an elite competitor. But with two Super Bowl wins in the books and a flurry of past off-field issues, did his focus alter or identity change? The Super Bowl game against Green Bay Packers worried me. Ben didn’t look like typical Ben. I expect some erratic plays and to yell at the TV for him to get rid of the ball before he’s in a hospital, but my one blanket of comfort with him was that late in games, he just evolves. It happened in numerous big games in his first few years, but also in meaningless regular season battles. You know that near the end of a game, you can never count them out. I didn’t feel that confidence with him in that game.

I think playoff success depends a lot on a mixture of luck and confidence and the Packers had both in spades. To further corroborate this trend, the 2011 season was shockingly bereft of big comebacks. It in fact seemed to include many more nail biter wins over teams the Steelers should have steam rolled. The first close win was against the Indianapolis Colts and required 13 points in the fourth quarter. The touchdown came from the defense as Troy Polamalu returned a James Harrison forced fumble into the end zone. The next two close wins against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Kansas City Chiefs saw Pittsburgh get shut out in both second halves. The last close win of the season was against the Cleveland Browns and the game winning touchdown was scored in the third quarter. All four of those teams should’ve been beat by much larger margins, and in all four games the offense was stagnant at the end of the game. I don’t want to make this seem like it’s all Roethlisberger’s fault but he is the poster boy of this offense. The close loss to the Houston Texans was even more indicative. The Steelers lost by 7 and that lead was established with 12 minutes left in the game. The Baltimore Ravens loss however was a little different as the Steelers rallied back for two fourth quarter touchdowns, but lost because they left the Ravens with too much time on the clock.

Getting in to Ben’s unique identity explains what I like about him. He is very hard for defenses to adjust to. I know that might sound like it contradicts what I said earlier so let me explain. You can setup a plan to fundamentally stop Ben, but his ability to shed tacklers, extend plays and march the field when it counts are impossible to prepare for. He is a master of the intangibles. That also gives him more potential which is a good thing for a guy in his (very early) 30’s. So while I would rate him as the sixth best QB in the league in terms of beating defenses and physical ability, when you consider toughness, determination and how clutch he is, maybe he should be third.

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  • mokhkw

    Wow..it amazes me what short memories some writers appear to have.

    Rodgers had the highest QB rating in NFL history last year, the Pack was dominant – until they lost a PO game. He’s clearly the best QB in the NFL atm.

    Peyton has been…..well, Peyton, for over a decade; he misses one season and he’s suddenly not top-3? I could say similar about Rivers – he’s been very good for a long time until last season

    The last time Eli had back-to-back good years was….?

    I like Ben as a QB, but I think he has a ways to go before he can be in the Rodgers-P.Manning-Brady-Brees class. I’m hoping that the improved OLine and Haley can help him get there.

  • Jprankster2005

    If Ben had the O Line that he will have this year he’s an elite QB…….He could be the MVP this year in fact…… And with 3 super Bowl apperances and 2 wins how wouldn’t u rate him in the top 3 only Eli and Brady have atleast 2 so that would be accurate if u ask me… ..Nobody can turn nothing in something like Ben does on the field……. And just to say you hate on players have u ever been a player and go threw the stuff they do to get where there at? If u did play football Ive never heard of you

  • Jprankster2005

    Ben is way better than Rivers, And if retired today would be a Hall of Famer…….He has ways to go…… wow doesn’t he have 2 rings and 3 super bowls???? He’s at his prime right now and u can always do better but he’s done his share……. And it amazes me that u have a short term memory of those things he’s accomplished……He’s the steelers all time completions leader,2 time super bowl winner…. And plays hurt every year and gives everything in the games he plays……..

  • John Appleseed

    ben for me is # 5 ahead of peyton.

  • Pete

    It’s really all opinion. To me, Ben is a very good QB and can extend plays much like Elway before him. He won a Super Bowl in his 2nd season. Pretty impressive if you ask me. This isn’t tennis. It’s a team sport and a lot goes into making a QB look good or bad.

    I wouldn’t call them the top 6 best QB. I’d call them the top 6 most successfull QB not in any order:
    Tom Brady
    Drew Brees
    Peyton Manning
    Eli Manning
    Ben Roethlisberger
    Aaron Rogers

    You can sort them any way you like. In my mind, these are all elite QB.

  • steelman

    Seriously???

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

    5 is the right spot for me. Brees, a healthy Peyton, Brady, and Rodgers are the only ones better. Eli is a close 6th.

  • kevin

    I agree with you on this one.

    It pains me to say this too, but much of Ben’s problems in the GB super bowl were the result of Kemo’s poor blocking (among others) and the receivers (Wallace did not have a terrible game, but was very inconsistent with his routes).

  • kevin

    I would put Ben at four

    Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Ben and two Mannings. I would like to see what Peyton does this year before proclaiming him top-3. I have to say though, I think there might be the least distance between 1 and 6 than I have ever seen in the NFL.

  • Eric87

    I think I would put Ben around 5 if you are just talking pure passing. That said, the way Ben plays, I wouldn’t trade him for any other QB out there. The guy is a classic Elway/Favre type and just pulls things outta nowhere. Love his improvison skills. And for everyone saying that Ben isn’t going to like the new offense, can we see him run it first before everyone makes rash comments due to media comments. Of course you are not going to have a fun time learning an offense that who knows may be 10 times harder than the last. It is hard work, but that doesn’t mean that he will not run it like clockwork and benefit more from it. Give it time, just OTA’s

  • Broderick Wallace

    Big Ben played with a glove on his hand in the last Super Bowl appearance. He wasn’t his usual self.

  • mokhkw

    I don’t recall saying that Rivers was better than Ben.

    If Eli retired today, would he be a HOFer?

  • Chad

    Brees was mediocre in San Deigo, has a really good offensive line, had one of the best offensive minds in football in Sean Payton, and plays indoors. Not hating but Brees wouldn’t do what he does in New Orleans here in Pittsburgh.

  • Nineandhalfwks69

    Peyton
    Rogers
    Brady
    Brees
    Ben
    Eli

    For me this is based on the total body of work throughout their career.

  • Intropy

    Remove Brady and Insert Rivers and I agree.

  • Intropy

    Ben is better than any of the ones ranked ahead of him, and yet is still too high. Odd list, in my opinion.

  • Daveb1952

    Good article.. Is he # 3? The answer is no, he was not a three running BA’s offense. To me, it was like Ben beating on a dead mule to pull the cart……. You can be a great fiddle player, but if your playing a a bad piece of music, you can’t play it good.

    As for the Packer Superbowl game, IMO, when Sanders went down, Ben was lost. I think the entire game plan was built around Sanders being able to hit the open spots in a depleted Packer secondary. Of course, the master of offensive adjustments, had no second plan……

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

    Not a chance. Rivers doesn’t even belong in the same discussion. Rivers puts up big numbers playing in what has been for most of his career one of the two worst divisions in football both overall and defensively. He has never shown a propensity to carry his team to wins and has melted down several times, including most of last year. It may be even worse that you think Brady should be taken out for him (and I hate Brady).

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

    Now that he won 2 SBs, it becomes debatable. If that continues to be the primary metric, then yes. Based on play? no.

  • Jprankster2005

    Eli probably not but close….. And Ben and Rivers ain’t on the same level is what I meant…… I read it wrong my bad……

  • Jprankster2005

    I agree…….. And with Rogers only having a couple good seasons I can’t put him ahead of Ben when It’s all said and done maybe…. But Ben will show alot of people in the next 3 yrs. that he is the best in the business…… I keep saying I see 2 more super bowl rings in the next 3 to 4 yrs……. With this new O line and Haley pushing to make him better and him not just being comfortable with Arians will make him better and guys like Rainey will develop more plays for him and make his game way better…… I’m telling u Ben will go down as one of the best ever……

  • Jprankster2005

    Exactly, He a player made to be a Steeler……. He’s hard nosed and plays his ass off…. I wouldn’t take anyone over him either…..But I do rate him higher….. I think only Brees and Peyton Manning are better…… I think with a better O line he is going to show he’s better than a Brady……..

  • Jprankster2005

    Rogers is bascially had only a few yrs. so how is it based on a body of Career? I think Peyton is dead on then Brees and then Ben……. If u wanted to go with whole Career it would have to be Brady with 3 super bowl rings

  • Anthony Renzelli

    Love ben probably my favorite player on the team but you guys are being stupid. Yes he’s an “elite” QB but he’s not top 3. Id put him around 5 if we’re just comparing playing quarterback. However, for the steelers, he’s the best QB in the NFL because of his ability to improvise, adjust, and play through injury. There are only a handful of teams that know their QB can lead them to a ring and pittsburgh is one of them. He will eventually be a HOFer and ONE OF THE BEST (NOT BEST) of this generation

  • steelerfan

    Interesting piece, Christopher. Certainly thought provoking, and I’d venture to say that you’d get numerous answers from various pundits. I suppose it all comes back to what criteria you personally use to rate these things.

  • R4kolb

    Dave what you have to remember (and trust me your more adept at judging skill levels then me) is Ben has had NO O-line for most of his career. How well do you think Brady would have done with the Steelers O-line the past couple of years? Or any QB other then Ben for that matter? I’m guessing not to well. Then there was the Bruce Arians factor, and his all to predictable play calling. I know you may not agree with that but obviously Mr. Rooney does or B.A. would still be there. I guess we will see if the change to Haley makes a difference. Plus I think our O-line may be a little better this year too. Do you agree?

  • SteelersDepot

    This was written by Chris for starters. sure the oline is ALWAYS a factor & that goes without saying. Predictable play calling? I disagree. The problem with the offense was there were not executing in the redzone and thus scoring was down. Yes, outside of left tackle right now, the line SHOULD BE improved. At the very least it will not be as bad as the last few seasons. OC turnover is understandably constant throughout the league. Either they get head coaching jobs or they are pushed out after a handful of seasons. The time is already getting shorter for Haley if you get my drift. Expect this offense to have some early growing pains as they adept to the new offense early on. I expect it to be run heavy through the first four games, especially if Adams wins the left tackle job. That being said this team once again has a legitimate chance at getting number 7 baring Ben going down or the defense collapsing. The window remains wide open right now.

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

    I am pretty sure predictable playcalling in the red zone was an issue. If I and most “more than casual” fans knew what was gonna be called, we can be sure the other team did too.

  • Jb

    First, I’m not a big fan of Ben. I am appreciative of his great contributions with the Steelers and I do like his determination at times; but his stubborn “lock jaw” or maybe better put “locked brain” mentality, is tiresome. All people, of course, make mistakes, but there should come a time where a person realizes their faults, and hopefully tries to change them for the better. Instead, Ben seems to simply give excuses why he does things.

    Ben really does remind me of both John Elway and Brett Favre. Now some may think that’s a compliment… it’s not. I have believed for awhile now that Elway and Favre should both have won more Superbowls. I think that the reckless play of Elway and Favre (as currently with Ben) is very exciting at times. But that style of play in the biggest games against the best teams, more often than not, will lose! But, buy the end of their careers it seemed that Elway smartened up and played/trusted in the system. Eventually winning two Superbowls to end his career. Farvre, on the other hand, seemingly, never fully changed from his stubborn behavior. Even in his last great season as a Viking, where he did seem to finally change his spots, in the end when playing New Orleans in the playoffs he reverted back to his old nature and threw that “stupid” interception. The Saints went on that year to beat the Colts in the SB.

    So, I think this is the choice for Ben. Stay like Favre, keep being the gun slinger, and with Ben’s pure physical talent he may still help the Steelers to win many big games… but not anymore Superbowls. Or, better yet, look at Elway’s last professional years and become part of a system. Come on Ben, keep that steel determination, but loose that complete stubbornness. Sorry, one last item, something that also helps determine a great NFL quarterback. That’s doing what you can to “stay healthy” and in turn stay on the field.

  • R4kolb

    Sorry bout that Chris. Thought Dave wrote this.

  • mokhkw

    & My Bad for not constructing that sentence more clearly. :)

    I think there is a parallel between how us Steelers fans view Ben & how a Giants fan would view Eli – they both have won multiple SBs so of course we rate them highly for that, but I’ve had this discussion with non-Steeler fans ( who weren’t haters) & they put forward some valid points & comparisons as to why they don’t rate Ben as highly as other QBs..

    To me at least, he’s the perfect QB for the Steelers. If he can add some more “Manning” to his “Favre” you’d have the ultimate QB imo.

    For QBs winning SBs is the ultimate accolade, but on the other hand players like Marino never won a SB but still are rated as one of the game’s best based on their play, not what their team(s) achieved. Not every QB is fortunate enough to join a good organization.

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