Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Pittsburgh Steelers

While the football world is still basking in (or trying to shut out, in the case of Massachusetts) the Giants' thrilling Super Bowl victory, I get back to work. (Briefly, I recommend checking out the photos from the Giants' ticker tape parade. Michael Strahan looks like he is absolutely losing his gourd in all of them, while Eli sports his signature dorkily happy grin and Michael Bloomberg looks like a Lilliput transported to the land of the Brobdingnagians. It's amusing).

We move onto the AFC North, and the Steel City, where the other Pennsylvania team sees how its signal-caller matches up. Back to you, Quarterback Quiz...

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6): Ben Roethlisberger

"Big Ben," as he's known affectionately around the Allegheny, is unfortunately more well-known by the rest of the world as becoming an inadvertent helmet-safety public-service announcement after his (helmetless) motorcycle crash on June 12, 2006 almost cost him his playing career and possibly his life. But since Steelers apparently can't be destroyed by crashing facefirst into pavement off a speeding bike, Roethlisberger made a full recovery and went on to play a regular season. This was nothing new for him, as he's made a reputation as a tough player from the start. He started his career at Findlay High School, where he was actually a wide receiver for three years and didn't make the switch to quarterback until his senior year. However, this didn't slow him down. #7 (he wears it as a tribute to Elway) went on to be a collegiate standout at Miami University, which contrary to the name is actually in Oxford, Ohio. He started three years for the Redhawks and holds every school passing record; he threw for 3,100, 3200, and 4,400 yards respectively, and in 2003, his senior year, he captained the Redhawks to an undefeated season and a win over Louisville in the GMAC Bowl.

Taken 11th overall in 2004 by the Steelers, Big Ben was immediately poised as the future of the franchise, but like most rookies, he had to wait to break into the starting job. Trapped in the depth chart behind Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch, Roethlisberger got his chance in Week 2 when Batch fell prey to injury and Maddox fell prey to ... well, not being very good. What happened next was some Steel City Magic. Roethlisberger promptly ripped off 13 straight regular season wins and beat the Jets in the divisional playoffs before the Steelers fell to the Patriots (as often happens) in the AFC Championship -- making his record as a first-year starter 14-1. Not bad.

Roethlisberger followed it up the next year, 2005, where he led the Steelers to three straight road wins at the end of the season to seal a repeat playoff appearance. Pittsburgh entered the playoffs as the sixth seed in the AFC, but upended Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver in the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl XL meeting with the Seattle Seahawks. Here, Roethlisberger nominally became the youngest quarterback ever to win the big game at 23 years of age, but his individual stats weren't particularly impressive: 9 of 21 passes completed with two interceptions, and his 22.6 rating was the lowest ever for a victorious quarterback. Still, the Steelers took the crown 21-10.

Due to Roethlisberger's aforementioned crash, however, 2006 was his roughest season in his still-young career. After posting high-nineties passer ratings for each of his first two years, he fell all the way to 75.4, throwing 18 TD to 23 INT and completing just 59% of his passes. However, with another season to separate himself from the crash, he redeemed himself valiantly in 2007 -- with 32 TD to 11 INT, a mammoth 104.1 rating (his highest career figure to date) 3,154 yards, and a 65.3 completion percentage, he looked much more like the Big Ben of old and led the Steelers to the AFC North title. However, they were bumped 31-29 in wild-card play by the Jacksonville Jaguars; Roethlisberger got sacked six times and started the final drive with a fumble. Still, his position is secure as Steelers QB, and if the organization could put an actual O-line steel curtain around him (Roethlisberger was sacked 47 times in the regular season, the second-highest total in the NFL) he could showcase even more improved performance.


Erin said...

"But since Steelers apparently can't be destroyed by crashing facefirst into pavement off a speeding bike..."

Um, I know that is so much more dramatic, but not true.

He was pulling out from a traffic light and hit the side of the car at a whopping 35mph...hardly "speedng"!

Hilary said...

It's called being ironic. Sarcasm is hard to convey on the internets, I know. And it's a testament to Ben's toughness either way that he's here after smashing his head open -- pavement is hard whether you hit it at 35 or 65 mph.

Anything else?