No Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback has hoisted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award since 1978 when the “Blonde Bomber”, Terry Bradshaw, took it home. That season, he threw for 2,915 yards with 28 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. Those numbers were in a different era though, whenever quarterbacks didn’t wear dresses and defensive backs were allowed to actually play defense on receivers. Also, it was an era where the running game was more leaned upon than the pass.
Nowadays, the passing attack is in full gear, as aerial attacks all over the league have taken the place of the traditional I-formation alignment, with your classic fullback and the bell-cow running back who gets 25-30 carries a game. Current Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is often considered one of the top five at his position across the league, and last year was another standout example as to why. He was the league co-leader with the Saints’ Drew Brees in passing yards, with 4,952, and he tossed 32 touchdowns against just 9 interceptions. He garnered his third Pro Bowl nod, and fast forwarding to next season, he could propel the Steelers’ offense to even greater heights. He might have no other choice, with star running back, Le’Veon Bell, facing a 2-3 game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Roethlisberger already owns all the major statistical categories in franchise history, and he stands alone as the only QB in NFL history with multiple 500-yard passing games, with two. But he’ll still need to check off two more boxes, including two more Super Bowl trophies and an MVP award if he wants to be labeled the undisputed best quarterback in team history. In their last 24 regular season games, he’s guided the team to a 17-7 mark, while the team sifts out some of the old defensive stalwarts. He’s led the transformation from your father’s brand of Steelers football, based on smash-mouth football to an aerial assault centered around his rifle of a right arm. Next season, the offense has the potential to be close to, if not, the best in the entire league, and it all starts with #7.
While navigating throughout next season’s rocky schedule, he’ll face off against Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco twice, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady, all of whom are Super Bowl championship quarterbacks. He’ll also face San Diego’s Philip Rivers, a mult-time Pro Bowler himself, along with arguably the best young QB in the game, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck. In the past, Ben has always been recognized as a top-tier QB, but just didn’t have the gaudy numbers of a Brady or Manning, but this no longer is the case, as evidenced by last year’s numbers. Over the last two year’s, he has 9,213 yards passing, with 60 touchdowns and just 23 interceptions with a completion percent near 66 percent.
While missing Bell early will hurt, Roethlisberger has at his disposal arguably the best receiver in the game, Antonio Brown, and a great complementary cast consisting of speedster, deep-threat Martavis Bryant, slot receiver Markus Wheaton and do-it-all tight end Heath Miller. In several games last year, Bell was bottled up on the ground, which could be the case again with DeAngelo Williams or whoever else is toting the rock in the early going. This will once again call for Big Ben to rise up and carry the team on his shoulders. With multiple prime time games this year versus the cream of the NFL’s QB crop, Roethlisberger has perhaps the best chance he’s ever had of securing that MVP trophy that has long eluded him.
Missing Bell will undoubtedly hurt, but if something happened to #7, it would be a crippling injury that the team likely wouldn’t be able to overcome. Since being viewed as a game manager early in his career, flanked by a voracious defense and banner ground game, he’s now at ease in the driver’s seat of the offense and this year can prove the doubters wrong as one of the best to ever play the position, not only in the Steel City, but league wide.