STEELERS DAILY DOSSIER by Chris Gossett
PITTSBURGH STEELERS ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
The 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers Are Vying For Seventh Title; Steelers Super Bowl Champions in Games IX, X, XIII, XIV, XL and XLIII
Roethlisberger Vs. Brady - One Legitimate Legacy Vs. One Tainted Legacy - October 6, 2009
It must cross Ben Roethlisberger's mind from time to time; why he isn't known as one of the top, elite quarterbacks in the National Football League. Everyone talks about Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers and only a select few give Ben Roethlisberger his props. Not only is Roethlisberger capable of improving his efficiency post contact, he has more Super Bowl wins than any other active Quarterback except for Tom Brady. The media darlings around the NFL, prima donna Quarterbacks, whose reputations are touted as being greater than Ben's, do not share the same abilities that separate Roethlisberger as the best, nor do they do not share the same legitimate regular season winning percentage, nor his high number of legitimate playoff wins. First, let's talk about abilities or talent, then we will discuss the style of offenses played by the Steelers and Patriots, in particular, and then let's talk about the bottom line, wins.
The way Ben shakes off tackles reminds me of a tight end or full back. His capability in this regard in unsurpassed in the NFL. I don't see Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers or any other Quarterback in the NFL doing this with the regularity, success and seeming ease that Ben Roethlisberger does on a regular basis. The passing efficiency numbers improve for Roethlisberger after he has been contacted, compared to when he has not. That is not a fluke, that is not a trend; that has been noted since Ben's rookie year and this is his sixth season. It is noted at times that Ben throws from any body position, like no other passer, in the game. He even does it with people hanging off him! It seems the only asset the media is willing to concede to him is arm strength but winning is everything.
Wins start in the regular season. Ben's rookie year regular season was a sensation. He was 13-0! That says a lot. No other quarterback; not just rookies; no other quarterback in history had as good a record over one season, at that time; ever! Even the '72 Dolphins had Morrall and Griese both playing so neither man gathered all the wins under his belt. Touchdown Tommy went out and the Steelers were in for the most pleasant surprise ever when the season continued on in story book fashion. 'And how did it end? By running into the Cheatriots in the AFC title. If the Steelers faced any other team, who was not cheating, or even against the Patriots, if they WERE NOT cheating, and the Steelers would have had their 6th Super Bowl win in 2004 instead of 2005. We might be talking about the Steelers vying for an eighth Super Bowl Championship now. Brady went 16-0 in 2007 but in a minute I will explain why 2007, even being "post punishment" for the Pats, seems like it requires an asterisk.
Yes, although one quarterback in the NFL has one more Super Bowl win, for a total of three, it shall be known as a tainted legacy for Tom Brady because it includes the stigma of playing and winning for a cheating organization. It's easier to call his team the Cheatriots than the Patriots after such un-American, un-Partiotic practices. An asterisk can and should be placed next to the Patriot Super Bowls since 2001. The level of talent on those Championship teams always seemed interchangeable and with the insertion and surprising success of individual talents such as Hank Poteat. I always questioned "how in the heck are these teams winning at the highest level with cast offs?"
When you examine the style of offenses played by these teams you notice that Ben Roethlisberger's role as a passer is given to him with heightened responsibility over Tom Brady's. If you throw fewer passes than the other guys then each pass represents a higher percentage of your overall total. If you do bad things with those passes, i.e. throw interceptions or un-catchable passes your inefficiency is far more noticeable. So when Ben was a rookie and everyone said he was "managing the offense" this meant that by throwing fewer times each pass was a greater percentage of a whole; the entire body of work suffers when you throw 1 INT in 12 passes versus throwing 1 INT in 24 or 36 passes. When you look at it from that point of view Roethlisberger's rookie results are even more incredible to perceive. Fast forward five years and in 2009 you see the Steelers have given the reigns to Roethlisberger. Mike Tomlin describes the desire to strive toward the style of New England multi-talented, versatile offensive approach.
New England had a Madden offense in 2007 when Brady threw those 50 TDs. They may have been caught for cheating and supposedly the cheating was stopped but was it really? The Patriots played every team in the NFL, twice, while it was documented that they were cheating. Wouldn't they have known some of the tendencies already and NOT really have even needed to tape the other coaches hand signals any more in 2007? Didn't they just have six years, minimum, they were undertaking these practices? Did every single team change every single signal they had used? Probably not, but we will never know. Again I can't look at the New Englad achievement (in this instance Brady's stats) without considering the placement of an asterisk next to the achievement because they cheated. They didn't just cheat a little, either; it was extreme, it was blatant, and it very long term.
Let's look at Super Bowl Championships. The Steelers have two with Ben and there is nothing to tarnish that achievement. Brady has three but they cheated; it's easy to play, even with sub par talent, when you know what they other team is planning on doing. People talk about Ben having a bad game in Super Bowl XL, which we will get to in a moment, while people say Brady played so well in his games. If you know what the Defense expects it does not require a rocket scientist to call the exact opposite type of plays. Think about it; no defense is immune. Even when a defensive package is designed to take advantage of one major strength, it has holes. If you cover the deep and the flats, then the underneath and the curls and maybe the middle are open. If you cover the underneath, the curls and the middle then the deep outside is open (the deep flats). Every play is vulnerable. These are just instances, examples; not all-inclusive statements. The point is simple; if you know where they will be, you make sure your men aren't there. Easy as pie. So DID Brady play so well, or did his coaches just call plays that were opposite of what they knew the defense would be doing?
Some claim that Ben Roethlisberger played poorly in his first Super Bowl, game XL. If you compare two Steeler Super Bowl performances by Bradshaw in Super Bowl X and Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XL you find some interesting analogies. Let's look at the numbers: 9 of 21 for Ben in XL and Terry was 9 of 19 in X; very similar numbers although Bradshaw's rating would have been higher without Ben's 1 interception and since his completions averaged over 14 yards per. Even in that game, X, Bradshaw missed an easy Touchdown to a wide open Lynn Swann that would have changed the game from being a close one to a possible blow out. Nobody criticized Bradshaw for going 9 of 19. Swann made him look great that day. One little known fact, after that historic play, the one that Swann trips and pulls in a bobbled pass at the Dallas 45, on the next play in that same drive, Terry threw a pass almost as bad as Ben's was, missing a wide open Lynn Swann, and then the Steelers didn't even score that drive. Bradshaw wasn't criticized for having a bad game. As great as Swann looks in the numbers he could have had ended up with a mythical 5th catch, a 200 yard game, with another score, instead of 4 for 161. Nobody criticized Terry that day because of Swann but also because there was no passer rating then. Nobody should criticize Terry but that's the whole point; just as nobody criticizes Bradshaw, nobody should deny Ben Roethlisberger his due either.
Granted, one pass was ill-advised. As the Steelers held a 14-3 lead in the third quarter, and were ready to put the game away early, the Steelers had it inside the Seahawks ten yard line, with that two score lead. (sorry Seahawk fans - it really wasn't even close enough that officiating had anything to do with the outcome) A greater lead was assured but Cowher uncharacteristically called a pass to the right flat. Ben under threw and it was picked off, returned for good field position and put the Seahawks right back in the game with good field position and after a touchdown they cut the Steelers lead to 14-10. If the Steelers just didn't throw then and only took a 17-3 lead the Super Bowl may have ended by that score, or 20-3, or 24-3 if Randle El still gets called upon to throw to Ward on the reverse, which probably does not have happen had the Steelers gotten points earlier instead of turning it over. The game would have ended either 17-3 or 20-3. That one bad call and bad pass equated to a fourteen point swing. That pass went against Ben's rating, significantly cutting it by more than half. A drop in the end zone by Hines Ward went against Ben's rating as well as a second quarter drop by Hines and there were other drops by other players. It's actually very easy to make the case that Ben did not play poorly, that he could have had 12 of 21 and a touchdown. Twenty One passes alone are not many to count toward overall passer rating. When you have people dropping passes, including the normally sure handed Hines Ward, while in the end zone, and you have bad play calling in the red zone that leads to an interception when no pass should have been called...your rating will suffer.
Even legends like Terry Bradshaw are not immune to persecution from the fans. Terry was booed. Steeler Nation gets smarter with age. We realize our mistakes and never boo Ben Roethlisberger. Giving props to the prima donnas of the NFL might be the media's way but not this NFL Fan's.
Ben Roethlisberger has a clear path to the Hall Of Fame. Many names who have been mentioned before his will not be heard at the steps of Canton before his. Tom Brady will always have to answer the questions that center around cheating.
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