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Ben Roethlisberger playing at an elite level early in the season

Through three weeks of the NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have seen lofty expectations shattered, but even loftier expectations start to come to fruition. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is playing at a level that puts him atop the NFL’s list of passers.

Now, I’m of the school of thought that says that it’s never too early to make predictions and end up eating crow later if it comes down to it, so let’s make some predictions concerning the two time Super Bowl winning Roethlisberger, shall we?

After a glance at the statistics and after watching and re-watching three games worth of film on the man, it should be noted that whether or not the Steelers record shows it, their quarterback is playing at a level that could culminate in him hoisting a Most Valuable Player Trophy at the end of the year.

Woah, woah, woah, wait. Number one, we’re three weeks into the season and you’re crowning an MVP? And an MVP who’s only lead his team to a single win in three tries? I thought that the idea of a Pittsburgh Steelers player winning anything other than Defensive Player of the Year was just the musing of an insane Pittsburgh fan?

To get those arguments out of the way, I’m not crowning an MVP, merely pointing out that as NFL fans, we know that we’re constantly locked in a discussion of standings, statistics and predictions, and this, at the very least gives fuel to the fires that are already burning.

The MVP award, believe it or not, isn’t a team award. The record of the team should play only a very minor part, and while we all know that that’s not entirely true when it comes to the MVP selections of previous years, that’s the way the award was set up in the first place. Now, chances are, looking back at the history of the award you’ll notice that not only are the players listed there great players in their own right, but have played on winning teams more often than not, therein lies the issue with the 1-3 record faced by the Steelers quarterback as of the ending of the game against the Oakland Raiders. Without scraping his team from the bottom of the barrel, and allowing the cream to rise to the top of the mug, Roethlisberger’s chances of actually receiving the award are few and far between, but not inherently impossible.

Per the (somewhat joking) Defensive Player of the Year comment, yes, it is true that since the 1970’s the Pittsburgh Steelers have been known for defense, and have become very familiar with playing host to the Defensive Player of the Year, but from the looks of the 2012-2013 edition of the team, those days may be in the past. The Pittsburgh offense seems to be taking the field by force, with Roethlisberger leading the way.

But, enough ranting, rambling, and questioning myself, let’s take a look at what really matters in the voting.

Through three games, Roethlisberger is second in quarterback rating to only Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, and the difference between the two is marginal, with Ryan sitting at a 114.0 rating, while Ben trails behind with a 109.2 rating.

Now, I won’t begin to pretend that I know how to calculate a quarterback rating, but I do know that over the span of three games (two of which have seen the Steelers fall short on the scoreboard) that a 109.2 is a good one.

Completion percentage wise, Roethlisberger is listed in eighth place on the list, with a 68.3%, the highest on the list (once again Atlanta’s Ryan) is 72%, while the two tied for fifth (Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers and Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton) have 68.4. Rodgers is currently playing the Seattle Seahawks as this is written, so that may change in the next hour.

In the yards department, only three quarterbacks have more than Roethlisberger through the air, New York Giants QB Eli Manning, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick. And, it should be noted that Vick has only one more yard than Roethlisberger, who is tied with record breaker Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints at 904 yards on the year.

Now, what good do a bunch of passing yards do you, if they don’t end in touchdowns? Exactly what I was thinking. Taking a look at the touchdowns thrown this year, Roethlisberger is in a three way tie for first place, with Ryan, and Bills passer Ryan Fitzpatrick, all three have thrown 8 touchdowns thus far.

Ryan and Roethlisberger have each thrown just one interception, with Fitzpatrick throwing three, and in a way, putting him below the pair. Roethlisberger averages a little more yards per attempt, and has nearly 200 more passing yards than Ryan.

Roethlisberger’s lone interception came in week one against the Denver Broncos, which, incidentally was the same game where he was sacked five times. Since that game, not only has he not turned the ball over, but he has avoided the pass rush, being sacked three times against the New York Jets, and only once against the Oakland Raiders.

When looking at how Roethlisberger stacks up against the current wave of competition, it seems as if only Matt Ryan can match up to him. Until you throw in the intangibles.

Of course, both quarterbacks are consummate professionals, and inherently great leaders, but only one of them has the ability to truly extend plays, and that’s, of course, Roethlisberger. Now, escaping the pass rush is something that’s listed in the job description for an NFL quarterback, and no one is arguing that Roethlisberger’s the only one that can do it, but in today’s NFL he certainly is the best at keeping his feet underneath him and finding a way to keep the play alive.

Now, just to re-iterate, I’m in no way calling for him to be crowned the King Of The NFL, only pointing out that not only is he on pace to have his best season as a professional quarterback, but he’s also on pace to be looking at a few additional trophies in his case at the end of the year.

TJ –


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