Dilfer Disses Roethlisberger in Otherwise Excellent QB Rankings Article

What will it take for Ben Roethlisberger to get the recognition he deserves?

Apparently, Big Ben needs to do a lot more, as recent articles by Joe Starkey and ESPN.com’s Trent Dilfer reveal.

Starkey Rises to Ben’s Defense

A while back Tribune-Review’s Joe Starkey reported that ProFootball Outsiders Aaron Schatz had declared Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers to be the NFL’s top four signal callers, and that “Ben Roethlisberger didn’t even belong in the conversation.”

Excuse me?

Starkey doesn’t buy it either. He debunks the conventional wisdom that Rivers and Brees routinely get such top billing because they’ve assembled a more compelling battery of statistics.

Starkey deserves full credit for his research, and Steel Curtain Rising will give it to him by not rehashing all of it here. But we will say that he goes far beyond the (extremely relevant) argument that Ben has brought home two Lombardi Trophies. Click here to read Starkey’s vigorous defense of Ben.

Dilfer’s Dump

Trent Dilfer takes a different track in an extended article posted on ESPN.com last week.

Dilfer evaluates 49 NFL quarterbacks and divides them into categories. Unlike most “rankings” Dilfer stratifies quarterbacks based not only on ability but where they are in their careers now.

Dilfer places Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the NFL’s “Elite” quarterbacks. As much as Steel Curtain Rising is tempted to contrast Peyton’s ability to “win the big one” with Ben’s, we won’t. You can’t really fault Dilfer’s analysis of Manning (or Brady for that matter.)

Things get interesting with his “Superstars” category. In Dilfer’s eyes, Superstars are:

Quarterbacks with no holes in their games who have demonstrated an ability to carry their teams. They are a championship ring away from joining Manning and Brady among the elite. There’s no game plan these guys can’t beat. [Emphasis added.]

In that category, Dilfer anoints Drew Brees and Philip Rivers as the NFL’s sole “Superstars.”

Below them, you get “the Stars” who Dilfer characterizes as:

Quarterbacks who have overcome small holes in their games to produce in a big way and enjoy big-game success. These are consistent prime-time performers, with very little separating them from Superstar status. [Emphasis added.]

So what exactly “separates” the “Stars” from the “Superstars?”

One can only suppose a key differentiating criterion for Dilfer is that “Stars” can have won Super Bowl rings where as the “Superstars” have yet to do so. Steel Curtain Rising makes that leap of faith because he places Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Kurt Warner in that category.


Drew Brees is a fine quarterback who excels without the benefit of a stellar supporting cast. Philip Rivers is an excellent quarterback who will only continue to improve. As stated when Steel Curtain Rising called on Steelers Nation to vote for Roethlisberger on an ESPN poll of quarterbacks, we have nothing against Drew Brees (or Rivers for that matter.)

Steel Curtain simply thinks Ben is better. Here’s why.

Not Just Talent, But What You Do With It

Ben Roethlisberger’s (89.4) passer rating is identical to Drew Brees’, and just 3.5 points below Philip Rivers’ (92.9). No one says these players lack ability.

But ask yourselves a question:

Your team has led for four quarters. You get screwed on a holding call that results in a safety. The opposition then goes ahead on dramatic catch and run touchdown pass that spanned more half the field.

You’re down by three. You’ve got 2:36 seconds to drive 80 yards and score or you go home.

How big a game is it? Just to make it interesting, let’s just say its, oh, the Super Bowl.

Do Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have the talent to take your team to victory? Absolutely.

Would they?

…Impossible to know until the time comes.

What about Ben Roethlisberger? …Let’s just watch below and see for ourselves.

Big Ben has the numbers. He has the hardware. Ben Roethlisberger has delivered time and time again with the game on the line.

If Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are “Superstars” so is Ben Roethlisberger. Case closed.

Giving the Dilfer His Due

For as strongly as Steel Curtain Rising takes exception to Dilfer’s ranking Rivers and Brees ahead of Big Ben, considered as a whole, Dilfer’s quarterback analysis is excellent.

He’s clearly taken the time to extensively analyze the players, their history, their mechanics, and their performance. This is clearly no “off the cuff” analysis, but something crafted with a great deal of research, insight, and care.

Dilfer has resisted any temptation to over criticize or to indulge in sensationalism for its own sake. Steel Curtain Rising commends him for that because nothing generates web traffic like negative headlines.

Set aside his ranking of Roethlisberger, and Dilfer’s piece is an interesting read and certainly worthy the investment of your time.

Thanks for visiting. Be sure to vote in our poll and check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising.

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