PITTSBURGH - The list of accomplishments for Ben Roethlisberger in his first four seasons in the NFL have been astounding.
The youngest quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship and first quarterback to start two conference championship games in his first two seasons, Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to a 38-13 record in games he's started - including a 5-1 mark in the playoffs. For all his success, Roethlisberger isn't mentioned when the subject of the NFL's best quarterbacks is discussed.
Perhaps that is because Roethlisberger, now in his fourth season, has never been considered the leader of the Steelers. He's always had Jerome Bettis or Hines Ward to help fill that role.
But Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, with Ward and fellow starting receiver Santonio Holmes out with injuries, the Steelers needed Roethlisberger's leadership more than ever.
He responded by completing 18 of 22 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 21-0 win.
"I hope I'm always a leader out there," Roethlisberger said. "When you lose guys, you have to count on guys to step up."
Roethlisberger certainly did that.
But Roethlisberger has been doing that all season. He's completed 81 of 131 passes for 1,013 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions this season as the Steelers opened with a 4-1 record.
It's a far different story than Roethlisberger's start last season, when he threw five touchdown passes and seven interceptions in his first five starts.
The Steelers went just 1-4 in those games and Roethlisberger, who was coming back from an offseason motorcycle accident and an appendectomy that forced him to sit out the opener, was blamed for the poor start.
"That's the nature of that position," said Steelers' first-year head coach Mike Tomlin. "They probably get too much credit for the wins and too much of the blame for the losses."
If you had a poll outside of Pittsburgh asking who should be considered the Most Valuable Player in the first five weeks of this season, Roethlisberger would be lucky to crack the top 10.
After New England's Tom Brady and Randy Moss, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, Green Bay's Brett Favre and Dallas' Tony Romo, Roethlisberger might get a mention. But his teammates realize how much Roethlisberger's play has meant this season.
"Ben's playing great," said wide receiver Nate Washington. "He's back (to) doing the things that he does best: making plays. He's not worrying about that adversity on the sidelines anymore. If he does make a mishap, he keeps on moving. That's what we all have to do as a team, and do better as a team - just coming out and keeping things moving."
This is what Tomlin expected from Roethlisberger when he gave the quarterback more responsibility this season, giving him more input into helping the coaching staff draw up a game plan each week. "That is Ben," said Tomlin. "He is a professional."