Dissed Unfairly by the Media, Ben Roethlisberger Still Deliver in 2008 Playoffs

Its amazing how little respect Ben Roethlisberger gets from the media some times.

Since entering the league in 2004 Ben:

  • Was the first rookie quarterback to win 15 straight games
  • Became the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl
  • Engineered 18 4th quarter comebacks
  • Won 50 games as a starter faster than anyone else
  • That apparently isn’t good enough for many of the pundits.

Prior to the 2007 season, ESPN put out a list of 100 surefire Hall of Famers. If memory serves, both Matt Leinart and Matt Schaub made the list.

  • Ben was left on the outside looking in, written off as a game manager.

During 2007 the “game manger” an all pro season which included throwing 32 touchdowns and only 11 picks.

Ben’s numbers for 2008 are not as good. He’s thrown fewer touchdowns and more interceptions. His also led his team to two more wins.

National Media Overlooks Roethlisberger

Don’t tell that to FOX Sports however.

They recently ranked the eight playoff quarterbacks, listing Roethlisberger at number six, behind Jake Delhomme, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Dovonan McNabb, and Kurt Warner.

Interesting pecking order, especially because Ben has a ring, something that three of the five people rated ahead of him cannot say.

Criticism of Ben Not Exclusively National

But the criticism of Ben is also home grown too.

Early last week Mike Prusita of the Tribune-Review wrote an article that concluded that Ben was the Steelers main question mark heading into the playoffs.

To be fair, Purstia’s article was balanced and reasonably objective.

While he does couch his words with some important qualification, Prustia ultimate conclusion is rather harsh:

Without question, his regression from the $100 million contract-earning franchise quarterback he was a year ago deserves an asterisk. The respective states of the offensive line and running game have contributed to his downfall.

“Downfall?” Regression from his franchise quarterback status?

Those are strong words. Too strong in fact, for a quarterback who lead 5 come from behind drives against blue-chip opponents.

Bottom Line: Ben Must Still Deliver

If the criticism of Roethlisberger is unjust, the pressure upon him is not.

About a year ago in one of our first posts, Steel Curtain Rising rose to Roethlisberger’s defense after the Jacksonville game.

The writer called into question Ben’s playoff ability.

True, Ben did not play well during his rookie season in the playoffs. Joe Flacco’s solid play against Miami and Tennessee notwithstanding, this is nothing to be shocked at.

His play in the 2005 playoff is the stuff of legend, although he did benefit from a few dropped interceptions.

He did not perform well in Super Bowl XL, but he did make a couple of key plays when he had to.

Last year against Jacksonville he threw three interceptions in the first half. Then he came back and established that held with less than a minute to go. It says here that if Tyronne Carter had been ready to swarm at the point of attack, instead of allowing David Gurrard to run for double digit yardage, he’d have a playoff comeback under his belt.

Very well.

The Pittsburgh Steelers playoff fortunes depend in Ben’s ability to come through. The running game might marginally improve, but there is no way this team is running over people they way it did in the 1990’s and even as recently as 2004.

Defense and kick coverage figure to be strengths this time around, but it only takes one big play to get seven on the board for the other team.

If that should happen, then it falls on Ben to right the ship.

Catch-22/Paradox about Ben’s Play

Call it a Catch-22 or a Paradox, but which ever term you choose it still describes something that Ben needs to work out.

  • Ben’s biggest weaknesses is that he sometimes holds on the ball too long… and that he sometimes gets impatient.

Ben Roethlisberger has proven himself to be the kind of quarterback you want handling the ball when the game is on the line.

Yet, there are also times when Ben tries to do too much by himself to win games or force the ball in difficult situations. That got him into trouble in the first half of last year’s Jacksonville game, and it got him into trouble at times this year, particularly against the Colts.

So Ben’s got to find a way to walk the tight rope.

  • Ben Roethlisberger, more than any one player has a responsibility for carry the team forward, yet at the same time he must not over reach.

How well he strikes that balance will determine the Steelers fortunes this January.

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