Thanksgiving Day 2017 has arrived, and that means its time for Steel Curtain Rising to bestow its annual Thanksgiving Day honors.
- And this year we’re going to make a bold break from tradition and award Steelers Thanksgiving Day Honors to Ben Roethlisberger.
Our Steelers Thanksgiving Honors tradition started in 2009. And while the Steelers were only 3 games into their notirous 5 game losing streak, things had not gone well, but Rashard Mendenhall was an undoubted bright spots, so he earned the inaugural honors.
Since then its gone to an up and coming contributor, such as Antonio Brown in 2011, Cam Heyward in 2013 or Le’Veon Bell in 2014. But this year our Steelers Thanksgiving Honors are as much about looking back as they are about the present, and it is only fitting that Ben Roethlisberger win the award.
Steelers Thanksgiving Honors for Ben Roethlisberger
So why break tradition and award Thanksgiving honors to Ben Roethlisberger? Let’s start with this one fact: Since the Pittsburgh picked him in the 2004 NFL Draft, Steelers Nation has never celebrated a Thanksgiving holiday where the men in Black and Gold haven’t been in the playoff picture.
- That, in and of itself, perhaps isn’t so remarkable given that the Steelers have won at least 5 games in every season since 1970.
But Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have gone into the final game of the season with at least a mathematical shot at the playoffs in all but two seasons since his arrival in 2004. Fans in places like Cleveland and Washington would beg for their team to have enjoyed playoff viability in the season’s final week even 25% of the time during that span.
- During the Steelers rebuilding seasons of 2012 and 2013, Bob Labriola argued that the Steelers were contenders because “they had one.”
One being a franchise quarterback, that is. And he’s right. As the 2014 had slipped to 3-3 after losing on the road to the Cleveland Browns, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell penned what was and remains perhaps the best article written about the Steelers in the Post Super Bowl XLV era titled, “Deja Vu All Over Again.”
- At the time, Wexell compared the 2014 Steelers to the 2000 Steelers, and found the two times in roughly the same spots in the rebuilding cycle.
The difference, Wexell argued, was that the Mike Tomlin’s ’12, ’13 and ’14 Steelers benefited from having Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback as opposed to struggling with Kordell Stewart (note, struggling is my term, not Wexell’s.)
There are many reasons why Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe’s Steelers teams of the 1990’s knocked on heaven’s door but always failed to break through.
Kevin Colbert’s stellar record with 1st round draft picks and his uncanny knack for signing undrafted rookie free agents (hello James Harrison, hello Willie Parker) are two of those. While those are important, remember that Colbert and Cowher were brides maids who failed to become brides in ’01, even though they had Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis in his prime.
- The key difference, the independent variable if you will, of course, is Ben Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger gave, and continues to give the Steelers something that they missed since Terry Bradshaw elbow popped on that fateful day at Shea – a quarterback who is truly talented enough to win it all.
- Sure, Ben Roethlisberger has had his struggles this year, and this site hasn’t been shy in pointing those out.
But if the Ben Roethlisberger of 2017 isn’t quite what the Ben Roethlisberger of 2014 or 2015, he’s still better than all but a handful of his contemporaries. Measure his career however you like:
- No losing seasons as starter
- Victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII before his 27th birthday
- 131 wins (and counting)
- 36 fourth quarter comebacks in the regular season an 4 in the playoffs
All of that adds up to a championship caliber quarterback, and Steelers Nation should be thankful for having in Ben Roethlisberger. The conventional wisdom among Steelers fans is that Ben Roethlisberger will retire after 2017.
- If that’s true, it will mark a sad day in Steelers history.
But the truth is no one outside of the Steelers locker room really knows what Ben Roethlisberger will do when this season is over, Ben Roethlisberger himself might not know. Even if the day doesn’t come during this off season, Ben Roethlisberger is clearly nearing his “Life’s Work.”
But we do know that Ben Roethlisberger is the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback now, and for that Steelers Nation should enjoy it and give thanks.
Happy Thanksgiving From All of Us at Steel Curtain Rising
We’ll conclude as we do every year at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of the noblest of US holidays. It cuts across all races, creeds and economic backgrounds. And, the abomination that is Black Friday not withstanding, unlike Christmas or Easter, you can’t corrupt Thanksgiving through commercialization.
While we enthusiastically offer our Steelers Thanksgiving honors, we do so with the caveat that we sincerely hope that each and everyone of you has many, far more important non-football reasons to give thanks this Thanksgiving.
So we trust and hope you’re enjoying the day and surrounded by family friends. Happy Thanksgiving Steelers Nation.
Click here to read stories of past Steelers Thanksgiving Honors recipients.