Roethlisberger Motivated By Flacco MVP?

By Jeremy Hritz

Ben Roethlisberger is preparing for his 10th season in the NFL, and it is hard to believe that the young quarterback that took the league by storm in 2004 is now in the backend of his career.

With three Super Bowl appearances on his resume along with two trophies, there is no question Roethlisberger’s play has been solid during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, if anything has eluded him, it has been a monster season statistically, and a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award.

In 2012, Roethlisberger was on pace for his best season number-wise ever with the Steelers since 2007 when he threw 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions (though he did not throw for 4,000 yards). His greatest yardage output came in 2009, a season that the Steelers missed the playoffs, and he threw for 4,328 yards.

While statistics are not always indicative of wins or quality quarterback play, when looking at the so-called elite quarterbacks in Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Aaron Rodgers, all of whom have won both league and Super Bowl MVPs, they consistently put up 4,000 yard and 30+ touchdown passing seasons.

In arguments about which quarterbacks are considered in the upper echelon in the NFL, Roethlisberger’s name is always in the discussion, but it is always accompanied by a “yeah, but.” His play is characterized as gritty and tough, as opposed to accurate or surgical, terms normally reserved for Brady, Manning, and Rodgers. While he does not put up comparable statistics of the so-called elites, he has consistently shown that he can find a way to win the game with everything on the line (ok, maybe not in 2012).

The biggest difference between Roethlisberger and the other big name QBs is the talent surrounding him. Outside of Ben’s first two seasons, he has not enjoyed the protection of an effective offensive line, and honestly, after Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker, he has not had a reliable running back to drive the running game. And when talking about wide receivers, the best that he has ever had was Hines Ward, hardly a speedster, but a player that was always open and that made splash plays consistently. Despite Mike Wallace’s speed, he is too unpredictable, and Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders only seem slightly above average. The biggest weapon that Ben currently has is Heath Miller, though his effectiveness after his knee injury has yet to be seen.

The bottom line is that Roethlisberger has created more success with less talented players than Brady, Manning, and Rodgers ever have, and that is something that has to be taken into consideration when discussing the elite quarterbacks of the NFL.

What is frightening is if the Steelers organization expects Roethlisberger to produce on offense next season with only Brown, Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery at wide receiver and Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman at running back. The sum of all those parts will be the most mediocre set of offensive weapons that Ben has ever had.

Without question, the Steelers need to give Roethlisberger a few playmakers if there is to be any offensive improvement in 2013. If no talent is added, it will be difficult to expect a record better than 8-8.

The last point I wanted to throw out in regards to Roethlisberger is the impact, if any, that Joe Flacco winning a championship and a Super Bowl MVP has had on him. As competitive as Roethlisberger is, it is difficult to believe that it is easy for him to accept a divisional quarterback that he has outshined for years stealing his spotlight by winning on the big stage and earning the MVP hardware that has escaped him. Will Roethlisberger’s drive be intensified next season to show that when it comes to the AFC North, he is the undisputed leader? The answer is certainly yes, but will he have the tools that he needs to bring another championship to Pittsburgh?

  • Garrett Hunt

    Good article, imagine what he could have accomplished with a better offensive line throughout his career. Seems like every year it has been a weakness.

  • mlc43

    I don’t agree with the doing more with less. The other QBs mentioned have made the players around them better. While Roethlisberger is a great QB I don’t consider him “elite” for this reason. I would only give that title to Brady, P Manning, Brees and Rodgers. Ben is right there at the top just under those players but he hasn’t taken that step, whether it being making average players great or staying healthy. Also, while Flacco had a MONSTER post season and deserved the MVP, we’ve all seen him make these few game runs before. He just happened to have this one at the right time. He needs to back up his MVP playoff performance with something other than the up and down mediocre years he’s known for. If he does that then he can be considered in the league with Ben. Ooooh, and everyone knows Ben should have won the MVP over Santonio Holmes.

  • Brady had better WRs and RBs than Ben? Not for most oh his career he didn’t.

  • Yep.

  • I am not quite sure blaming the O-lines for a mere 21 point average over a 9 year run is a very solid thought. Ben sometimes takes up to 5 or 6 seconds (sometimes longer) to sling the ball and continues to take hits. I am not saying all of his Linemen were Pro Bowlers, it’s just a little too easy to put all of the blame there. In his first SB, was it not Randle El that threw the TD to Ward, Parker ran for a long one and Ben ran won in that was disputed? I like Ben too but he is not elite just yet and it has not always been the O-Lines fault. He has not quite been the “comeback kid” we have come to know and love since the loss to Green Bay in his 3rd SB appearance.

  • DoctorNoah

    I seem to remember winning the 2005 Superbowl in spite of Ben, not because of him.

    I love Ben. He’s had good weapons all along, and his accuracy with the deep ball has been middling to good but never great. He’s done some spectacular things and thrown just as many duds. For every evaded sack, every missed tackle, there’s a needle he could have threaded or a back shoulder pass he missed by two feet. That’s really the reason he’s not in the same category as Brady or Manning.

    But maybe you can blame his OC and coaches. There have been some games he should not have played because of overestimating his own capabilities. But I blame them more for not bringing him along as an accurate pocket passer and reader of defenses. He usually has great instinctsc especially once a play breaks down, but the other quarterbacks seem to always have an open man, a passing lane, a little confusion produced in the defense. Is Ben not seeing what Brady sees, or is the offensive scheme not able to confuse defenses?

    Would I take Ben over most quarterbacks? Yep. But over Brady, Brees, Manning or Rodgers? No.

    But Flacco – I still don’t think he’s anything special, but he certainly rose to the occasion when Ray Rice didn’t. And he deserved the MVP. I hope it motivates not just Ben, but Haley and Tomlin as well. Ben has a lot of maturation still to do.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Yep. If an oLine culd give Ben 5 seconds he wuld hold the ball for 6. If culd give Ben 10 seconds he wuld take 11 anyway which gets a QBs bones broken. Brady can release ball quick, Ben hates to release it quick.

  • Finally a voice of reason! Thanks Doc.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Im lookin for where did Ben imply that Ben will always have to be the undisputed leader of QBs in the north, & Im not finding it. It wuld be better if u ask Ben that. Unless Ben says that, I will guess instead that Ben’s priority is just win.

    Some people will always be content with future 8-8 seasons as long as they can make excuses for it. If ifs and buts were candy & nuts.

    Brady has not always had better WRs than Ben. Brady can get rid of the ball quick.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Man I think thats tellin it like it is, & thats my opinion too on every bit of that.

  • Sven_Hunkstrom

    He was lousy in that Super Bowl, but he was outstanding in the three AFC playoff games. Rating of 124.7 with 7 touchdowns and 1 interception. Similarly excellent in the four must-wins to end the 2005 regular season.

    Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the NFL. He’d be that in any jersey. The other guys you list wouldn’t survive a month behind the OL we’ve been putting out there the past five years or so.

    Roethlisberger isn’t a perfect player. He’s never been good with managing the clock and doesn’t see the field all that well from the pocket. He also could retire tonight and, even with the off field adventures, be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

    There’s not a GM in the league who would take Joe Flacco over Ben Roethlisberger if given the choice, and that includes Ozzie Newsome. I’d guess fewer than ten would prefer Eli Manning. Brees is a special case due to his stature and system, and Brady/P Manning/ Rodgers are better than Ben in the aggregate. No shame in that.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Excuses excuses. If u give Ben a better offensiv line, he’ll still hold the ball too long. Ben wants playground offense, no plan or timing, just everyone go long. And thats because he is good at that. But he will therefore miss >4 games every year busted up even if we culd get an allpro for at each of the 5 positions on our o-line.

  • Nolrog

    People look at that Super Bowl and then completely forget the fact that Ben carried the team on his back to get there with fantastic performances in the playoffs leading up to it. Ben was along for the ride in the game itself, no question, but they don’t even get there if not for him.

  • Sven_Hunkstrom

    Even in SB XL itself, the perception of his performance would be greatly altered if he throws his 2nd interception two feet higher. It ends up a touchdown, the game becomes a blowout, and he ends up with a quarterback rating of 70 or so.

    I fully realize the difference between legends and also-rans can come down to one play, and he was indeed bad in that game. No argument; he *didn’t* throw that pass two feet higher and it almost cost us the Super Bowl. But he made some big plays, too. That third down conversion on the busted play in the 4th quarter is a play maybe 3 other qbs in the league make. Ditto for our first touchdown and the long pass to Ward leading to it, as well as the block on the RandleEl to Ward touchdown.

  • Sven_Hunkstrom

    (Postscript, purely out of curiosity I ran the numbers from my hypothetical above. If that pass is a touchdown, we go up 21-3 and that’s presumably the last pass he throws in the game. As it was, I believe he only threw one more anyway, and it was a shovel pass. That leaves him with a QB rating of 62.3. Still nothing to brag about, but not the historical abomination he ended up with in reality.)

  • zyzak

    I dont use QBR I use wins. Ben has never had a good back. Bettis was done and Willie Parker couldn’t pick enough holes to save his life. He was prpbably the dumbest football player ever.( UNC coach.)
    If BR had the line that Brady has had Brady would be in second place, a distant second. The Steelers owe him a line and a decent back or they’re wasting his talent.

  • zyzak

    Brady had a better offense Period

  • zyzak

    Your’e goofy

  • Mikey Hoje

    It’s like Bouchette once said, “y’a can’t win the superbowl every year”. Focus more in ’13. We wus perhaps 4 plays from

  • Maurice_hill_district

    As if Brady always had better running backs than Ben? Patriots annually picked up other teams’ oldies etc to be their RB, & then theyd be down to their 3rd halfback because of injuries. Brady wulda liked to have Willie Parker.

    Ask Patriots fans if they wuld rather have Ben than Brady. 100% of them wuld laugh.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    This last season we were ~4 plays from 13-3? I assume u are joking.

  • james

    Whether Big Ben was lousy in a Super Bowl or not he is still the Quarter back that has won two super bowls and lost one. It takes more than one game to define your career and it takes more than one game to get to a Super Bowl. What Big Ben can do is give you a shot. Statistics are over rated why would you care. The goal is a Super Bowl. I do not understand why you ask Big Ben to accomplish statistics or why its even a goal. Matthew Stafford has great statistics but no rings. Garbage time on a bad team can give you great statistics. I will take the grind it out do whats needed QB every time. You can keep your regular season trophies and your regular season victories I will take the QB who gives me a shot at the show every time.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I never said that Ben didn’t hold the ball too long. Just saying he would have put up better numbers with an o line like “elite” quarterbacks like Brady, Rodgers, and Manning have had the majority of their careers.

  • Garrett Hunt

    At no point did I blame the O-line for the 21 point average. Yes, I absolutely agree that he does hold the ball too long at times. Just saying he would have put up better numbers with an O-line like “elite” quarterbacks like Brady, Rodgers, and Manning have had the majority of their careers.

    Funny how “elite” quarterbacks usually seem to play behind above average O-lines. Ben is a winner, and to me in my book that makes him elite. Am I biased towards him? Absolutely, but success is more important than numbers to me.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Well said

  • Chris92021

    He better be. Flacco has just as many TD passes in one Super Bowl than Big Ben has in three Super Bowls. The Steelers won one Super Bowl in spite of Big Ben and lost another partly because of him.

  • Talent wise, only on the line. Outside of Moss two years and Welker, they had nobody until this season. RB? They got one good year out of a broken down Corey Dillon and what else prior to this year? Marony and the law firm…

  • Parker was a good back in the right offense, i.e. with a FB. Look it up, Parker hit a steep decline when they let Kreider walk and stopped using a FB. He was the wrong back for a single back offense. Yes, his field vision was terrible but behind a lead blocker, he could use his speed to compensate for it.

    Even with all that, from 2005-2008 he put up better numbers than any Pats back, so your point about Brady having more talent, is pointless.

  • It’s not even mathematically possible.

  • Ben has never had a rep as a student of the game, and it shows in his lack of ability to read defenses.

  • Dan

    Tom Brady has always had a good offensive line, and Charlie Weis did an excellent job teaching him. He had Randy Moss to throw to for a few seasons, plus Wes Welker, who is a pretty damn good “possession” WR. Now he has two gigantic TEs to throw to as well, plus a running game that, while not dominant by any means, is effective when it needs to be. Tom Brady has had a much better supporting cast on offense since 2008 than Roethlisberger has.

  • Dan

    Greg Cosell, who’s been watching “all-22” film for over 30 years, has no problem with Roethlisberger’s ability to read defenses.

  • Dan

    Roethlisberger made Santonio Holmes better, and we’ll see that he made Mike Wallace better as well.

  • Dan

    Greg Cosell, who watches “all-22” film for a living, disagrees.

  • Dan

    I blame the lack of scoring by means other than the passing game. As a team, the Steelers accounted for 36 total TDs, which ranks them 22nd in the NFL. Of those 36 TDs, 27 of them were TD passes, which is tied for 8th in the NFL. (Roethlisberger accounted for all but one of those TD passes.) On the other hand, the Steelers scored only nine TDs with the running game, defense and special teams combined. Only two teams — the Raiders and Jaguars — scored fewer non-passing TDs than the Steelers did. The scoring problem has nothing to do with the passing game.

    To put it in better perspective, Roethlisberger threw 26 TD passes in 12-and-a-half games, which put him on a pace for 33 TD passes if he played all 16 games. (Yes, he could have fewer than that if he played all 16 games, but he could just as likely have more than that too.) If the Steelers, as a team, had 33 TD passes, that’d boost them from 8th to 5th in TD passes, but only improve their total TDs ranking from 22nd to 15th. In other words, the team would still only be average at scoring TDs even if Roethlisberger was essentially as productive as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers throwing TDs.

    In short, the scoring problem ain’t on Roethlisberger; it’s the rest of the team. The running game has been terribly unproductive at scoring TDs, That goes back to 2007, but this season was especially bad. As for the defense, it’d be nice for them to score more than one TD all season. Plenty of defenses that were average to mediocre statistically still scored a handful of TDs this season. And the return game didn’t score a single point, which is sad because they could have scored three TDs if it wasn’t for stupid holding penalties.

  • Dan

    And if you raise the speed limit to 75, everybody will drive 85. And if you raise the speed limit to 85, everybody will drive 95. And if you raise the speed limit to 95, everybody will go 105. And if they raise the speed limit to 105…

  • Let’s put this way… Brady played in a much better offensive system

  • Well, that’s one person…

  • Your argument doesn’t hold up if you have to qualify it with a subset of the time period. Especially since Brady missed 2008…

  • Dan

    …with a lot more credibility than you, but yeah, one person.

  • You came back after a month to post that? Sad.

    And credibility relative to me isn’t the point. Other people around the league have discusses Roethlisberger not being a student of the game and struggling to read defenses. I am not the source.