The Steelers have long prided themselves on being known for having a Steel Curtain defense.
Ever since the days of the 1970s when they won four of their six Super Bowls, there has been a perception that the Steelers have always been a dominant defensive team and, quite honestly, they’ve held that standard ever since.
But don’t think for a second you can exclude this franchise quarterback from the conversation when speaking about the Steelers’ successes.
Ignore the defense for a second, even though they have been just as big a reason why the Steelers are sitting atop the AFC at 9-2 right now. There isn’t a single player on either side of the ball more responsible for this than Ben Roethlisberger.
I know this will get disputed up and down but there is a simple method to my madness as far as this opinion goes.
Le’Veon Bell is touching the ball nearly 30 times a game, whether he’s carrying and dancing between the tackles or lining up out wide. His production is just as lethal either way.
Wouldn’t a duel threat who is responsible for touching the ball on close to half of the offense’s plays be the most important? In this case, no.
Antonio Brown, clearly the NFL’s best wide receiver, does something stupid-good every time he touches the ball. Whether it is leaping sky high and bringing down an incredible catch, pinning the ball against his helmet for a touchdown or bringing out the “Tony Toe Tap” persona and catching a nearly impossible pass along the sidelines, you’d assume he’d be the key cog in the offense, right?
Nope, still wrong.
Name any one player or singular unit on the team that is more important than Big Ben and I’ll show you twice as many reasons why they aren’t.
The fact of the matter is in the cards. The Steelers have struggled when employing any quarterback not named Roethlisberger in the Roethlisberger-era. Brown is much less of a factor as we’ve seen time-and-time again when Landry Jones has had to step in.
When Brown isn’t a factor, teams can zero-in on Bell and take him out of the game which makes the Steelers 100-times less effective and dynamic.
Sure, maybe Roethlisberger isn’t the same quarterback he was in his two Super Bowl victories. Heck, he isn’t even the same gunslinger he was a year ago. Roethlisberger doesn’t have the same escape technique he possessed in his younger days.
He may not even be as accurate. He’s a gamer. He has that killer mentality that he wants to win and accepts nothing less. He sees the end of his road coming in the near future. Whether it’s after this year, next year, or anytime after that, the fact of the matter is that he is 35 and quarterbacks don’t last forever. He wants to win.
Do you think you’re sick of watching the Patriots steamroll the AFC on it’s way to the Super Bowl seemingly every year? Imagine being an actual participant in the race and falling victim to them twice in AFC Championships. He doesn’t want it to happen a third time.
I am a part of the minuscule crowd that thinks head coach Mike Tomlin’s comments about that Patriots match up in week 15 are awesome. He, as well as his quarterback, knows that the only team other than the Patriots beating the Steelers are…the Steelers.
The pretenders of the AFC are simply nothing near the caliber of the aforementioned teams. If the Patriots or Steelers lose any games over the rest of the season, including in the postseason, it’ll almost assuredly be because they beat themselves.
When Big Ben had the five interception game against Jacksonville, it was presumed he was done and his head was anywhere but football. Is it any coincidence the Steelers have yet to lose a game since he’s been questioned? I’ll leave that up to you.
In fact, if you take out the dismal five interception performance, Ben’s TD-INT ratio is 20-7. That’s not bad for a 35-year old quarterback who was supposed to be washed up after that game.
Why is the Steelers’ most important player even up for debate? Everyone has already admitted the Steelers are virtually screwed when Roethlisberger retires. Nothing illustrates that more than the layover from Terry Bradshaw to Roethlisberger. He may not post the flashiest numbers anymore but he still gets the job done and then some on most occasions.
“I guess this old Cowboy still has a little left in him,” Roethlisberger said after dethroning Kansas City as the last undefeated team just a week after the five interceptions.
Yes you do, Big Ben.
And anyone who doubts the Steelers’ most important player might just be in for a rude awakening when it’s all said and done.