Today at MetLife Stadium, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger will meet for the third time, and of course they’ve split the previous two games as starters for their respective teams.
Their other similarities are striking:
Both were drafted in 2004.
Both became starters almost immediately.
Both have two Super Bowl rings.
Statistically, Roethlisberger has thrown 179 touchdown passes and Manning has thrown 197.
Manning has thrown 34 more interceptions and has an 82.6 passer rating, compared to Roethlisberger’s 92.8.
And Roethlisberger has quarterbacked 26 regular-season victories in which he’s directed a fourth-quarter drive from which the Steelers either trailed or were tied. Manning has 23 such victories.
In the won-loss department, Roethlisberger is 84-36 in the regular season and 10-4 in the playoffs. Manning is 75-52 and 8-3.
The two are so comparable the Giants had them ranked this way going into the 2004 draft: 1. Manning, 2. Roethlisberger.
Most teams had them that way – at least up until the week before the draft.
At that time, with the Steelers picking 11th, experts close to the team had them choosing Phillip Rivers. But Rivers made a late move up draft boards, and that was confirmed by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.
Normally tight-lipped and poker-faced, Colbert let his feelings slip when he was asked a few days before the draft if it was true the Steelers were going to select Rivers.
“We could actually get Roethlisberger,” said a somewhat shocked Colbert.
Of course, Colbert had to overcome his head coach’s attraction to guard Shawn Andrews, but the pick soon became one of the greatest in Steelers history.
Roethlisberger (284 yards passing per game) and Manning (288 yppg.) are enjoying strong seasons once again.
While Roethlisberger has the distinct edge in passer rating (101.4 to 89.1), Manning’s Giants are 6-2 and the Steelers are 4-3.
Today, Manning would seem to have the edge since Roethlisberger will be facing a more fierce pass rush. But if Roethlisberger can evade the rush he’ll be throwing into a Giants secondary that’s allowing a dreadful 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 13.3 yards per completion. Those stats both rank 30th in the league.
Only last week the Giants allowed Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys to pass for 427 yards.
Not that Roethlisberger is fazed by the number. “It’s so deceiving because the Cowboys were down,” he said. “I think that number is a little bit deceiving.”
But Roethlisberger doesn’t feel that way about a Giants pass rush that’s produced 21 sacks this season, primarily without blitzing.
Jason Pierre-Paul is the beast of the bunch. He has 5½ sacks and is followed by Linval Joseph with 4 and Osi Umenyiora with 3.
Experienced pass-rushers such as Chris Canty, Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck have only 1 sack apiece but either of them can break out during any given game, or snap.
Roethlisberger was asked which of the Giants’ many pass-rushers causes him the most concern.
“All of them,” he said. “You can’t put all your attention on one guy because there are five or six of them that will just get after you.”
But Roethlisberger is being sacked at a career-low frequency rate of once every 21.6 dropbacks. That’s almost 8 dropbacks more per sack than his previous career best, and it might just be enough to break free from the Giants and therefore Manning in what’s becoming a perpetual individual rivalry.
“I root for him,” Roethlisberger said. “I think a big part of it is, for me at least, when we get done playing I want them to say it was the greatest quarterback class of all-time: Phillip Rivers, myself, Eli, Matt Schaub. So of course you root for the other guy.”
Just not today.