The Ben Roethlisberger Story: Deja Super Bowl
Come the 2008 season Roethlisberger was true to form, completing 13 of 14 passes against the AFC South's Houston Texans. The Pittsburgh Steelers were off to a hot start, winning five of the first six games they played.
In week eight however he seemed to revert to the Ben Roethlisberger of 2006, throwing 4 interceptions and being sacked 5 times by the New York Giants. The Steelers ultimately lost that game 21-14.
The very next week against the Washington Redskins Roethlisberger was benched in favor of Byron Leftwich, remember Leftwich from the Marshall-Miami Ohio battles? The Steelers won that game decidedly, but was Ben's magic touch gone?
Once more this season he tossed multiple interceptions to an Indianapolis Colts team that was on fire after a slow start to the season. This is the only time that Roethlisberger put a game on his own shoulders after it was over, he blatantly told the media that he alone lost that game because of a poor performance.
To be fair though, the final interception came on a fourth quarter Hail Mary attempt that was intercepted In the end-zone, ending the Steelers hopes of winning the game.
After the Colts game, Roethlisberger got healthy and finished the season with victories in six of the final seven games of the 2008 season, the lone loss coming against the Tennessee Titans.
He finally proved that he could do everything asked of him and more, including a come from behind win against "America's Team" the Dallas Cowboys. This game was also the 49th career win of the small college quarterback, breaking an NFL record as he holds the record for the most wins by a quarterback in his first five seasons in the NFL.
He also posted a career best, attempting 131 passes without an interception until the Titans game.
He finished the season on a dark note, getting knocked to the turf against Cleveland and staying there after a hit from Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson in a 31-0 pillaging of the Browns.
He received yet another concussion that week, ending the season with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Not to mention a career high in completions with 281.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the second seed in the AFC, behind only the Titans, thus receiving a bye week for the first round, allowing Roethlisberger two weeks worth of rest and healing time before playing the San Diego Chargers for the second time in the year.
His offensive line truly stepped up for him, more than likely fearing that a hit could send their quarterback to the bench and their Super Bowl aspirations down the drain, allowing Ben to be sacked only once by the Chargers defense in a 35-24 Steelers victory.
Once more the Steelers would have to play their divisional foes, the Baltimore Ravens, the Ravens had just handed the Tennessee Titans a 13-10 defeat.
It was the AFC Championship game, hosted once more in the Steel City. Roethlisberger was spectacular, throwing for 255 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions against the number two defense (ranked only behind the Steelers own defense) in the league.
The Steelers defense set the tone for this game, with Polamalu ultimately sealing the 23-14 win with a 40 yard touchdown return after an interception. The teams, per usual, hit each other early, often and hard. Hines Ward went down with a knee injury early in the first quarter and did not return. Later in the game Willis McGahee had to be carted off the field on a stretcher after a vicious hit from Ryan Clark.
Ben Roethlisberger had won his seventh play-off win in his first five seasons, moving ahead of former Cowboy Troy Aikman and directly behind the New England Patriots Tom Brady. But, more importantly Ben Roethlisberger had led the Steelers to their seventh Super Bowl.
In Super Bowl XLIII the Steelers opponents were to be the Cinderella story Arizona Cardinals, led by Kurt Warner and his trio of talented receivers.
Basically to win the game, the Steelers had to play the same way they'd been playing all year, by pressuring the quarterback with their talented linebackers, most notably Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and his bookend LaMarr Woodley.
Not to mention they'd have to rely heavily on the Pittsburgh secondary to limit the Cardinals receivers, most notably the stud that is Larry Fitzgerald, who broke some guy named Jerry Rice's (I hear he was pretty good) post-season receiving records.
They did just that, taking a 17-7 lead going into halftime, due to a James Harrison interception on the goal-line that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown, recording the longest play in Super Bowl history.
Arizona seemed to have found an answer to taking it to the Steelers in the second half though, when they utilized Warner's poise by running a hurry-up offense and getting Fitzgerald involved.
Late and I mean late in the fourth and final quarter of the Super Bowl a perfectly executed play drew both Steelers safety's to the outside of the field, leaving Fitzgerald one on one with corner Ike Taylor on a short slant in which he turned into a 64 yard touchdown to take a 23-20 lead over the favored Steelers team.
Steeler Nation was in absolute shock, or at least I was. The Cardinals had never been to, much less won a Super Bowl in their existence and now they were just minutes away from taking home the Lombardi Trophy.
But, as always, Roethlisberger did what he does best.
He simply outplayed the Arizona defense, evading tackles left and right and completing passes at the same rate. The drive began on the Steelers 22 yard line. His favorite target on this drive was his favorite target all game long, Santonio Holmes out of The Ohio State University, who caught a touchdown in the back right corner of the end-zone to make it 27-23. Though, to be fair, he let a pass on the play before get away from him in the end-zone as well. The touchdown pass was nothing short of beautiful and perfect, no one but Holmes had any shot at it, just ask the three Cardinals defenders that were right there.
The Cardinals had time to come back though, could they make the Cinderella story complete by orchestrating their own last minute drive?
It was not meant to be, as Kurt Warner was sacked and fumbled on a play that many to this day call questionable as the Steelers recovered.
Santonio Holmes was the man of the hour, garnering Most Valuable Player honors for his efforts – 9 receptions for 131 yards and the game winning touchdown. Though, arguments can be made for Roethlisberger who threw for 256 yards with 21 completions and a score.
The Steelers had won their sixth Super Bowl, setting the standard for greatness in the NFL. No other franchise has won more to date.
His 2008 season begs the question: "Are stats really that important if you win the Super Bowl?"
I'll leave that for you to decide.