After watching Ben Roethlisberger take the Steelers back from a 14 point deficit and a disastrous first half of play at home to beat the Ravens 31-24 it got me thinking about Big Ben. Is Ben Roethlisberger the most clutch QB in the NFL? If so, is he the most under appreciated QB in the NFL?
Without doing any scientific research the game got me thinking of all of the Ben Roethlisberger 4th quarter comebacks I have watched over the last six years. I am not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan at all, but it just seems as if I am watching Roethlisberger pull off clutch plays every season in dramatic fashion. Well after going back and actually doing some research not only was I right, but Ben Roethlisberger is the most clutch quarterback over seven seasons in the NFL.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]The irony here is that you would never know it. The NFL media for obvious reasons have not given Big Ben his due for a long time. I say obvious because most of us know about Ben’s offseason charades which include accusations of sexual assaults (yes plural) and driving carelessly on a motorcycle. Type in “Ben Roethlisberger rape” into Google and you get over 82,000 results as opposed to “Ben Roethlisberger fourth quarter comebacks” which returns slightly over 30,000. On top of that, numerous reports came out after Ben’s incident last offseason in the bathroom as to Ben’s contentious relationship with the media and Steelers fans. The guy was quite frankly reported to be a big jerk and that just isn’t going to fly against the power of the pen or the keyboard.
But has it gotten to the point where the NFL media are just being petty? Troy Aikman said during the Packers vs. Falcons divisional playoff game, “If I were starting a franchise tomorrow, Aaron Rodgers would be my first choice as quarterback.” John Clayton from ESPN (ranked Ben fourth Brady, Manning, and Brees) when taking a look at his top ten. Whether it is Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, hell even Donovan McNabb when media and analysts talk about elite NFL quarterbacks rarely do you ever hear Ben Roethlisberger included in the conversation and that is quite frankly a disgrace.
If being a great NFL quarterback means being a great leader then Ben Roethlisberger is arguably the best in the NFL with Brady up for debate. Is there no better leader than putting your team on your back and not only bringing taking them out of a deficit but put them in position to win on top of that? Talk about the ultimate sports pressure. The Steelers are always given credit for their defense, but if there defense was so great than Big Ben wouldn’t need a comeback altogether. The clutch play of Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter is not only magical, but it is the type of quarteback play that makes legends and believe me when I tell you that decades after he is retired, Big Ben will be a legend.
On a list compiled by the NFL stats website pro-football-reference.com, Roethlisberger ranked 10th all time for NFL fourth-quarter comebacks. Their math differs with other stat sites in that they go back and use different metrics to rank their comebacks. The list was compiled in August 2009. Wikipedia.org and PFR.com lists Roethlisberger with 26 “Comebacks/game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime,” after his win in the divisional playoffs this season. Keep in mind the difference between a fourth quarter comeback and and game-winning drive and that is even more impressive. That is 26 times Ben Roethlisberger led his team to a 4th quarter TD that won the game and that my friends is clutch.
Big Ben comes out on top of Pro-Football-Reference.com‘s list of fourth quarter comeback wins over the first seven seasons of a career. That’s right on top! His go-ahead TD drive against the Ravens officially gives him 19 which is one more than Peyton Manning to lead the list. Behind Manning are John Elway with 17 and Tom Brady with 16. Only Tom Brady has more Super Bowl wins with three on his list. The only other starting QB in the top 15 is Eli Manning. When is the last time you heard anyone refer to Ben Roethlisberger with the same kind of reverence that is used when speaking of Tom Brady, John Elway, and Peyton Manning? Heck, if you didn’t watch football or read the list you would probably have no idea of just how good Roethlisberger is.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]This is nothing new for a guy that wasn’t even drafted in the top ten. Big Ben set a NFL rookie record in 2004 with five comeback wins in the fourth quarter, and six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime (including one playoff game). Like the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, Roethlisberger has been doing this since his rookie year. Look how long it took Peyton Manning, or John Elway to win a big game and you can see that this guy has been terrific since his first snap. If you look at his stats since his rookie year and didn’t know his name, you would think I was talking about Brady or Peyton Manning but nope, Big Ben is never in that same kind of conversation.
At the end of the day I think in 2011 it boils down to Big Ben and Tom Brady. While Brady gets weekly accolades about his postseason play, it is actually Roethlisberger that has been far superior over the last five seasons in the playoffs. Since 2005, Tom Brady is 5-5 in the postseason, 0-3 in his last three including losing a Super Bowl in which his team were heavily favored. Ben Roethlisberger is 8-1 with two Super Bowl wins including one of the greatest fourth-quarter comebacks against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl history to win Super Bowl XLIII . If that isn’t the definition of clutch I don’t know what is.
If you don’t think there is any kind of media bias against Roethlisberger, just check out the NFL Network’s Top 100 players list they did earlier this year. The list is comprised on players voted on by a committee of former and current players along with the media. So where does someone with Roethlisberger’s impressive record of postseason wins and fourth quarter comeback victories rank on the list? How about nowhere? Roethlisberger isn’t even on the list! If winning games in the postseason including two Super Bowls and pulling off clutch wins in the fourth quarter on a consistent basis can’t get you ranked ahead of Kurt Warner than something is wrong with that list.
Whether Roethlisberger wins the Super Bowl this year or not, he needs to start being recognized as the great NFL quarterback that he is. Is it fair to rank him ahead of Tom Brady? Well Brady has one more Super Bowl win and was one of the best clutch QBs of all time, but what has he done in the last five years? Big Ben has only gone 8-1 in the postseason and won two Super Bowls, in addition to bringing his team back on a consistent basis. Ironically a Super Bowl XLV win or even appearance this year would probably get some instant respect but by the time September rolls around it will be all Brady and Manning with a sprinkle of Brees and Rodgers once again. A Super Bowl win should not only put him right at the top of the list of current QBs, but put him near the top of the all-time list.
So allow me to disagree with Troy Aikman and tell you that if I was starting a franchise tomorrow and could take any quarterback in the NFL I’d take the guy who is calm under pressure, clutch in the highest pressure situations, and gives me the best chance to win my games no matter what the deficit is. That quarterback isn’t Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees…that guy is Ben Roethlisberger, the best quarterback in the NFL today.
Update: Big Ben is going back to the Super Bowl. Yes, he is that good.
Update #2: The Wall Street Journal breaks down Ben’s most recent postseason stats.