Since being selected 11th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 NFL Draft, Ben Roethlisberger has often found himself often being the center of praise and criticism in the National Football League. Some believe that he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, while others believe he is a product of media hype. In 2009, Roethlisberger will be entering his sixth season as an NFL quarterback, with still the same question that remains from his rookie year being asked, is Ben Roethlisberger overrated or underrated?

Ben Roethlisberger found immediate success during his rookie season, taking the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 15-1 record, and an AFC Championship appearance. Despite the achievements, doubters still found the time to criticize Roethlisberger’s game. In his first couple seasons, Roethlisberger played in a run-heavy offense and was often limited in his number of throws. Throughout the 2004 season, Roethlisberger averaged just over 18 pass attempts a game. Once the 2004 NFL playoffs started, Roethlisberger’s game suffered. In two playoff games Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, and finished the playoffs with a 61.3 quarterback rating. Ben’s limited passing attempts and poor play in the playoffs are why some credit Jerome Bettis and a stout defense for the success of the 2004 Steelers, rather than Roethlisberger.

The following season, The Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks met in Super Bowl XL. It was only Roethlisberger’s second season, and a 21-10 victory by the Steelers made Ben the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. However, this great accomplishment would be overshadowed by his play on the field. Although it was a Super Bowl win, Roethlisberger’s numbers were not anything to write home about. He completed only 9 of 21 pass attempts for just 123 yards, while throwing two interceptions. Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl XL quarterback rating was 22.6, the lowest rating in Super Bowl history. His poor performance on the NFL’s biggest stage would leave a sour taste in his mouth for the next three seasons.

Many people feel the biggest problem with Ben Roethlisberger is that he holds on to the football too long and takes too many sacks. Last season, Roethlisberger was sacked a total of 46 times, which is the second most in the league. In 2007, Roethlisberger was sacked 47 times, which ranked first in the league. At times, Roethlisberger also struggles keeping a grasp of the football. In the last two seasons Roethlisberger has fumbled a total of 23 times, the most by any quarterback in the league.

That is one side of the argument, now it is time to make the case that Ben Roethlisberger is underrated. Roethlisberger finished his rookie season with a perfect 13-0 regular season record, and was thus rewarded with winning the Rookie of the Year award. In his second season Roethlisberger became the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl. He was also voted to the NFL Pro Bowl following the 2007 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the Super Bowl in 2008 and faced the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Ben Roethlisberger was out to rectify his performance from Super Bowl XL, and that is exactly what he did. Roethlisberger threw for over 250 yards, and the game-winning touchdown pass. With 2:37 left on the clock, and the Steelers trailing 23-20, Ben Roethlisberger would conduct one of the most memorable drives in Super Bowl history. Roethlisberger began completing passes and moving the chains quickly and efficiently, while avoiding two sacks during the drive to keep hope alive for the Steelers. Then on third down and with just seconds remaining, Roethlisberger rolled out of the pocket and found Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone, who made a spectacular catch to win Super Bowl XLIII for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It is true that Ben Roethlisberger may not have gaudy numbers like Tony Romo, but then again Romo has not won a playoff game, Ben has won eight. Sometimes it seems as if the statistics that a player has is the only thing that matters anymore in sports. Ben Roethlisberger may not throw for 300 yards a game, but he will more often than not, put his team in a position to win the football game. In his first five seasons, Ben has won two Super Bowl rings. Throughout his career Roethlisberger has a record of 64-26, which is the best winning percentage by any active quarterback in the NFL. Even with these facts present, some fans and critics still refuse to consider Ben Roethlisberger an elite quarterback, as they are too busy praising Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Well, is Ben Roethlisberger overrated or underrated? That is a question the fans will have to answer, everyone has their opinion. Whether you like him or not, you should respect him, because he has a title next to his name that can never be questioned or debated, and that is the title of champion.

Michael C. Smith aka MCS513