Ben is very mature for his age and how fast he had to step up to play in this league. Granted he didn't have as rough a road as far as coach-player relationships as Bradshaw did, at least Ben never got benched because of his play. Good words coming from Bradshaw.....Terry Bradshaw roared at the question.
"Is Ben Roethlisberger more mature than I was at 26?" he repeated. "He's more mature than I am now!"
Ben Roethlisberger is one-up on Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl last-minute TD passes.
Bradshaw won his first of four Super Bowls with the Steelers when he was 26, and the excitement/debate has already begun. With two Super Bowl titles, Ben is now halfway to Bradshaw.
Do they compare?
"He is far more accurate than I was," Bradshaw said, "but I was faster. And I was big, but never this big. I played my first Super Bowl at 208 pounds. Ben's about 260."
Hard to believe Terry would exaggerate -- 240 is more like it. But both men have been known for being hard to bring down. While Bradshaw was more elusive, Ben has been the Plymouth Rock, just standing there when being assaulted on all sides.
"He's so athletic, so strong mentally and physically," Bradshaw said. "At that age, I couldn't even warm him up."
Another slight exaggeration.
Bradshaw threw for 27,989 yards, winning 107 games for the Steelers between 1970 and 1983. None of the Steelers quarterbacks who followed him came close to his combination of skills -- not Bubby Brister nor Mark Malone nor Tommy Maddox nor Neil O'Donnell. Even Kordell Stewart, whose rushing ability equaled his arm, combined for only 15,889 yards, second in Steelers history.
Roethlisberger became the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at age 23. Back then, he admitted, he was, "along for the ride." The ride was a bus, and everybody piled on to get Jerome Bettis a ring before he retired. Roethlisberger was particularly disappointing, with a 22.6 passer rating -- the lowest in history for the winning quarterback.
This time, Big Ben was in charge.
"He's insanely competitive," defensive end Brett Keiser said. "Never, never bet against him." Teammates say he won't even hold the door open for them if it means they'll beat him to somewhere he's going.
It was evident in the fourth quarter. Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame standard by which all Steelers quarterbacks are measured, never had to bring his team back the length of the field with a world championship on the line. Big Ben was ready.
Roethlisberger's 6-yard symphony to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left to rally Pittsburgh to a 27-23 victory against Arizona finished an equally breathtaking eight-play drive from the Steelers 22, in which Roethlisberger completed five of seven passes and scrambled for 4 yards.
He told his team it was "now or never," and though the dramatic pass to Holmes had a fancy name, Roethlisberger said it was basically, "drop back, scramble right, scramble left, then find someone open."
He said this drive, this victory, was deeply satisfying, and that the touchdown will "probably be remembered for decades to come."
Roethlisberger's passion and determination, like Bradshaw's, fit the franchise and its people.
"We're both tough, both hard-headed," Bradshaw said. "Pittsburgh loves that."
Bradshaw had the support of two Hall of Fame receivers, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. It is unlikely that either of Roethlisberger's targets, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes (glorified as he is right now), is headed to Canton.
"We both know that our defense is the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers," Bradshaw said. "Always has been."
Bradshaw's teams sent four defensive players to the Hall of Fame -- Mt. Rushmore names like Greene, Ham, Blount and Lambert. It remains to be seen if Troy Polamalu or James Harrison will be so decorated.
Neither player should be defined by his statistics. Bradshaw went to only three Pro Bowls in his glorious career. Ben has been to one. Instead, both will be remembered for their punishing plays and the punishment they endured.
"Ben has much more poise than I had at that age," Bradshaw said, "but there's one place we're exactly the same: we're both leaders."
Feb. 3, 2009
By Lesley Visser