Another Win, And More Proof That Ben Roethlisberger Is Grossly Overrated
Despite an enormous pile of evidence that places him squarely in the top 10-12 out of NFL quarterbacks, people consistently try to place him in the top tier of elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
Last night's season opener was a great example of this. In a game where the offense struggled badly early in the game, largely due to Roethlisberger's play. There's no getting around it... Ben Roethlisberger played absolutely terribly to start the game, and it cost the Steelers a chance to put it away early.
Of course, when you read about the game in various recaps, you'll see very little mention of that, if at all. Instead, people are gushing about Ben Roethlisberger and his supposedly clutch performance.
I'm not going to sit here and bash him. I will readily admit that he stepped up his play in the second half, and was a much better game manager than he was in the first half. However, he did nothing to show that he's an elite quarterback. A good quarterback, yes. But not elite.
The good: Roethlisberger finished the game 33 for 43, with 363 yards, and his team won.
The bad: He threw only 1 TD, threw 2 interceptions, and took a HUGE sack that was entirely his fault, and took his team out of field goal position, which could have allowed them to win the game in regulation. And while his completion percentage and his yardage looks good, he only averaged 11 yards per completion. In 2008, that would have ranked 24th in the league, tied with Trent Edwards. So obviously his passes weren't deep, impressive passes. They were low-risk, dink-and-dunk passes, and the wideouts were expected to get yards after the catch.
In the end, there were definitely some good things about Roethlisberger's game last night, but overall he had a very average performance. The real keys to the game were the defense holding the Titans to only 10 points, and their special teams, who blocked a Rob Bironas field goal. Had it not been for that field goal block, the Titans could have won the game.
However, you still see titles like "Big Ben Does It Again". That post contains exactly zero mentions whatsoever of the special teams play, or any mention whatsoever of Troy Polamalu, whose play made a huge difference in keeping the Titans off the scoreboard early in the game.
In mainstream media, the trend is the same. "Clutch moments becoming old hat for Big Ben", according to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports. He at least mentioned the blocked field goal, although he gave zero credit to the Steelers, and instead blamed only Bironas. And he at least mentioned the stellar play of Polamalu and Ben's horrific play in the first quarter, but that was hardly a footnote to the rest of the article, which did nothing but gush about how "clutch" Ben Roethlisberger is, and how he's a "mega-star" in the National Football League.
So why do people think that Ben Roethlisberger is an elite quarterback? There's one clear answer. Because he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Plain and simple. Of course, that's not what they would say, if you asked them. They might talk about his two Super Bowl rings. They might talk about his 18 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. They might talk about his one Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2007, when he threw 32 TD's. They might talk about how "tough" he is. They might mention that "his" winning percentage is as good as anyone else through their first 5 years in the league.
They won't, of course, mention that the Steelers' defense has been one of the most elite defensive units in recent memory, and was the biggest part of their postseason success. They won't mention the fact that in order to orchestrate a 4th quarter comeback, you first must suck bad enough to be losing after the first 3 quarters. They won't mention that his performance in his first Super Bowl win was the single worst performance ever by a winning quarterback in the Super Bowl, or that his one positive contribution to that game (a rushing TD) was heavily disputed, in a game that had some very controversial officiating. They also won't mention that winning percentage is a team statistic, and should never be attributed to a single player.
Another thing that they probably won't mention is that the success of the Steelers, since Ben Roethlisberger has entered the league, has been inversely proportionate to the number of passes that he has thrown. In other words, the more he throws the ball, the more they lose. The less they rely on him, the more they win.
The Steelers are 15-0 in games where Ben throws less than 20 passes. They are 19-2 when he throws between 20 and 24 passes. When he throws between 25-30 passes, they are 11-5. When Ben Roethlisberger throws more than 30 passes, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 9-14... a losing football team.
So is Ben Roethlisberger really an elite quarterback? Absolutely not. He's a good quarterback, and I'm sure Steelers fans are satisfied with the results that they have seen in the past 5 years. However, there are several quarterbacks that could have accomplished the same thing, if they were in the same situation as Roethlisberger. They might not have the rings, but neither did Dan Marino. Is there any doubt that he's better than Roethlisberger? There shouldn't be.
For once, let's look at the situation with some semblance of reality, and place Ben Roethlisberger exactly where he belongs... squarely in the top 10 among NFL QB's. Any worse, and you're not giving him any credit. But any more than that, and you're just not paying attention.