PITTSBURGH – With Ben Roethlisberger enjoying a breakout season of sorts, many within the Steelers organization viewed these playoffs as a chance for their quarterback to get his due as one of the game’s elite.
The thinking behind the front lines a couple of weeks ago went something like this:
If the seeds hold true, Roethlisberger would have a chance to defeat Peyton Manning and then Tom Brady, the two quarterbacks considered the class of the league these days.
Alas, the New York Jets stole Roethlisberger’s thunder by taking that path themselves.
It set up an AFC Championship Game of physical defenses and alleged “game manager” type quarterbacks, and nothing makes Roethlisberger cringe more than the term “game manager.”
It came up when he was asked Wednesday to critique the development of Jets sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez.
“He just makes plays,” Roethlisberger said. “People get on him a lot. It’s ‘run the ball and manage the game, Mark.’ No, to be a quarterback at that level, and do what he’s done, you don’t just manage a game. You play the game and do it at a high level, and that’s what he’s done.”
Sanchez must wear that label because he’s the rarity: a young quarterback in a big game. His coaches don’t ask much of him, nor should they. It’s how Roethlisberger was asked to play as a rookie in the 2004 AFC Championship Game and as a sophomore in the 2005 Super Bowl.
Problem is, Roethlisberger hasn’t been able to escape the “game manager” label, no matter how far from the truth it is these days.
One reporter saw through the words, saw the cringe on Roethlisberger’s face, and asked him Wednesday if it bothers him that he’s rarely listed with the game’s elite quarterbacks.
“No, it’s OK for me,” Roethlisberger said. “I know that I’m probably not ever going to win a league MVP, probably never going to win a passing title. But that’s not why I play the game. I just go out and try and win football games and try and win championships.”
But, still, Roethlisberger’s passing statistics are among the best of all-time. Here’s where Roethlisberger ranks in three of the most important passing categories:
* No. 8 all-time passer rating of 92.5 (just ahead of Joe Montana’s 92.3).
* No. 5 all-time yards per attempt of 8.04.
* No. 12 all-time completion percentage of 63.1 (just behind Montana’s 63.2).
Roethlisberger would never cite such numbers, nor would he ever admit that a lack of respect is driving him. But his top receiver will.
“Yeah, that’s probably what drives him,” said Hines Ward. “Look, all I care about is wins and losses. A quarterback who doesn’t have many more wins or Super Bowls, it really shouldn’t matter. The winning percentage speaks for itself. I doubt he gets caught up worrying about what people are saying about his style of play.”
Oh, right, the winning percentage. Well, Roethlisberger has that, too. He has the fourth best all-time winning percentage (90 or more starts) among quarterbacks in regular-season games. Roethlisberger is 69-29 for a .704 winning percentage.
He’s even better in the postseason when Roethlisberger is 9-2 with two championship wins. Only Bart Starr, at 9-1, has a better percentage among quarterbacks who’ve started 10 postseason games.
“He’s a winner,” Ward said. “He’s one ring behind (Tom) Brady and one above Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Regardless of how he does it, he’s still a Super Bowl quarterback. You can’t knock him.
“Is he unorthodox? Yes, but we know he does good things and does them well for us. I know every time we’re in the fourth quarter he’s not going to quit. We always have a chance to win games. I’ll take that over all of them. I wouldn’t trade him for any other quarterback out there.”