Many moons ago in the 2004 NFL Draft, the top three quarterback prospects, in no particular order, were Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. We all remember the fiasco with Manning, as he basically boycotted playing for the San Diego Chargers, who owned the #1 overall pick. The team took him first anyways, and when Rivers was taken by the New York Giants at pick number 4, the two teams swapped quarterbacks, with Manning getting his wish (or father Archie’s?) of playing for a big market team.
This led to Roethlisberger tumbling all the way to the eleventh pick, where the Steelers snatched him up and the rest is history. With Manning and Roethlisberger each owning two Super Bowl rings to Rivers’ none, those two seemingly would get the nod as far as the most superior career goes. However, Rivers has had a banner career thus far as well, putting up great numbers himself, and owning the most Pro Bowl berths of the three as well as the best career passer rating of 95.7.
All three of them rank in the top 20 in career touchdown passes, with Manning at 259, Rivers at 252 and Roethlisberger 251. In a recent debate on NFL.com, the topic of which of these three would end their career with the most touchdown passes made for a very interesting piece. Several members of the panel went with the man at the helm of what looks to be on paper the league’s most potent offense.
Gregg Rosenthal wasn’t shy about his selection, citing a stellar supporting cast with All-Pro’s Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and possibly the best offensive line Ben’s ever had. And did we mention he’s about a year younger than Manning?
“At one point, we worried that Roethlisberger would age poorly because his game was less cerebral,” Rosenthal told NFL.com. “Those fears have been calmed in recent years. Roethlisberger should take the lead in this competition with big-time production over the next two seasons, and Big Ben should keep getting chances longer than the other two, because he’s simply the best player of the group.”
Gil Brandt followed Rosenthal’s lead, and the common denominator for their respective choices was the offensive firepower. He pointed out the fact that Ben’s averaged 27 touchdowns per year over the last four seasons, and that number is highly likely to increase in 2015, as the absence of Bell in the early going will place the offensive load on the right arm of #7.
Charley Casserly was on the fence between Ben and Eli, and in the end, it came down to their favorite targets in Brown and Odell Beckham, Jr. The deciding factor for him was the Giants’ certified #2 wide out in Victor Cruz, who’s coming off a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. However, if second-year deep threat Martavis Bryant can build on his momentous 2014 campaign, it could swing the favor decisively in Roethlisberger’s favor.
Dave Dameshek took his own unique twist on it, looking at their overall career’s thus far, and broke it down by which quarterback stood the best chances of getting into the illustrious Hall of Fame. His argument was that a couple touchdown passes here or there isn’t what makes these guys great, as Rivers averages 1.7 touchdowns per game, compared to Roethlisberger’s 1.58 and Manning’s 1.53. However, his receiving corps pales in comparison to that of the other two. Manning’s higher interception rate and Rivers’ several lackluster years before a career resurgence made his final call an easy one.
“Rivers is a borderline Hall of Famer, but his mid-career swoon and lack of even one Super Bowl appearance drops him behind Roethlisberger, whose gold jacket is all but guaranteed even if he retires later today,” Dameshek said, according to NFL.com.
With Ben seeming to get better with age like a fine wine, and at the pinnacle of his career with a supporting cast such as his, it’s not out of the question to expect another Lombardi Trophy or two, cementing his entry into Canton as one of only two Steelers’ quarterbacks to do so.