By: TJ Jenkins
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was destined to be overshadowed by the return of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday night, that was obvious for anyone who's paid attention to the NFL weather forecast in the past months. Manning's return has been hyped since his initial injury, and to feed the media fire that was already blazing, he was released by the team that drafted him in 1998 – the Indianapolis Colts.
So, to say that Roethlisberger was a footnote to the game wouldn't be an understatement at all. But, something happened during the game, and no, I'm not talking about the pick six that he tossed to Tracey Porter in the fourth quarter to seal the game for Denver. Ben Roethlisberger proved that not only is he still relevant, he proved that he still has the mobility many fans were worried would start to leave him after numerous injuries, and the fact that he's not a giddy 22 year old thrust into the spotlight with a 22 year old's body.
Ben was still making all of those little plays that go unnoticed by the general NFL fan base. The plays that won him two Super Bowls. Little roll out passes, evading multiple pass rushers in a matter of a few milliseconds and still having the intelligence and awareness to look down the field and find an open receiver. In most cases that receiver was Antonio Brown, an interesting side story in the game as well.
Despite the interception, Roethlisberger still had 245 yards through the air, kept his completion percent above a 50% and included two touchdowns, including a quick strike to tight end Heath Miller after a silky smooth route.
On the downside of the performance, Roethlisberger did end up on the ground five times, though partially due to the vast amount of injuries the offensive line is continuing to sustain, it still brings worried looks from the fans of the black and gold.
Roethlisberger is no stranger to being sacked hard and often, ranking among the league leaders in the category last season. The fans and team themselves seemed to have grown accustomed to appearing at the top of the league leaders in sacks – both by their defense and to their quarterbacks.
People are quick to write off the 2004 first round draft pick, citing the number of sacks he takes, or the fact that he's never led the league in touchdowns or yards. Often times they don't factor in the fact that he simply plays the game – he extends plays that VERY few other quarterbacks in the league could even hope to, and once he gets his feet moving and rolls out of the pocket, he's a lethal threat to the opposing defense.
So, while no one's ready to chalk an MVP award to Roethlisberger right now, he still has all of the intangibles that an NFL quarterback needs to succeed, and the physical and mental tools are all there as well. Like it or not, the big guy behind center in Pittsburgh is going to hang around for a lot longer than some defenses would like.