Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and perhaps Aaron Rodgers. That’s the list of elite quarterbacks playing in the NFL today. They are the top tier. The guys in the level right below them are pretty good, but they’re not elite.
In this second tier are guys like Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger.
Sure, Roethlisberger is heading into his third Super Bowl appearance, but there’s more to being an elite quarterback. When we’re talking about a quarterback being elite, we’re talking about what he does as an individual.
Winning obviously goes into that, but this season more than any proved that Roethlisberger is just another guy on an elite team.
For the first month of the season, Roethlisberger was suspended. That’s four games the Steelers would have to make it without their “franchise quarterback.” Most, including myself, thought those four games would put them in a hole from which they could not pull themselves out. After all, they already had to compete with the Baltimore Ravens and there was no way the Ravens would allow the Steelers to rebound from a 2-2 or even 1-3 start.
But after starting the season 3-1 without Roethlisberger, it was becoming evident that the entire roster and the scheme was the reason for all the winning Pittsburgh has enjoyed. Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but they also didn’t have to make plays for the team to win.
So why exactly would anyone think it’s any different for Roethlisberger?
Don’t get me wrong, he’s obviously a skilled play-maker and the team is better with him, but they’ve shown that they can win without him or, as was the case in their first Super Bowl win with him in 2005, in spite of him.
Without Peyton Manning, where are the Colts? Without Tom Brady, where are the Patriots? Without Philip Rivers, where are the Chargers? Without Drew Brees, where are the Saints? And without Aaron Rodgers, where are the Packers?
The Patriots have shown they can win without Brady, but they missed the postseason without him. But should any of those other quarterbacks go down, it’s season over for their respective teams.
So yes, Roethlisberger is a very good quarterback, but to put him in the same company as Brady or Joe Montana as I’ve seen suggested is ridiculous. We don’t judge safeties, running backs, linebackers, or receivers on Super Bowl wins — if that were the case, Charles Haley would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer — so why is it that’s the only thing we talk about when it comes to quarterbacks?