Everybody loves lists, right? It’s just something that we do to pass the time, perhaps especially in sports during the periods of silence in the offseason. The NFL is in its deadest time of the year right now a month out of training camp, so it’s no surprise to see the lists pop back up again.
Recently, Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk went through a list of his top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL, and he placed Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just outside of the top five, landing at sixth overall—which was ahead of both Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
The top five in ascending order, by the way, was Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, followed by reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, then the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck, and finally, Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans.
On Roethlisberger, Simms had a great deal of positive things to add to his cause, saying that the Steelers quarterback “needs to be talked about in more of a glowing fashion than he is:, and that ““if we just try to keep it between the white lines”, arguing that off-field issues damage his public perception, then “it’s a special career” that he’s had up to this point.
“Last year was a phenomenal year for Ben Roethlisberger”, he said, and much of his argument rested on the fact that the Steelers offense relied so heavily on him, leading the league in pass attempts, completions, and yards. He argued, perhaps falsely, that the run game “sucked”, though more accurately, it was sparsely-used.
“Everything was on Big Ben”, he said. “I think the biggest thing to start out with is, yes, great size, awesome thrower of the football, and awesome quarterback under pressure, he’s still one of the best down-the-field throwers in the sport”.
He talked about why he puts so much stock in the ability to complete the big play, citing the TOX stat, which involves turnovers and explosive plays as predictors of who wins a game. “Explosive plays are the number two stat” in “determining who wins the game”, he said, so Roethlisberger’s ability to continue to do that scores high for him.
He also talked about his relationship with Antonio Brown and how much credit the quarterback is entitled to for their success. Imploring us to watch Brown’s highlight reel, he asked us to observe that “every throw was on the screws”, and often against good coverage. The ball was where it needed to be.
Simms noted the counterargument that the Steelers failed to reach the postseason, but offered some justifications for that, citing games like the losses to the Oakland Raiders, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the New Orleans Saints as not his fault. “It wasn’t because of Big Ben” that they lost.
To help make his case, let’s remind ourselves of what Roethlisberger’s numbers were in those games. He completed 29 of 45 passes for 281 yards with two scores and an interception against the Chargers. In Oakland, he completed 25 of 29 passes for 282 yards and two scores, including a go-ahead. Finally, in New Orleans, he went 33-for-50, throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions.