When your franchise quarterback is a small-school player, figuring out who your team’s best player from outside of a major college program is a pretty easy process. That was made all the more obvious by a recent article from ESPN listing the ‘small-school studs’ for all 32 teams, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers, of course, that player was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Originally drafted in 2004 out of Miami of Ohio from the MAC conference, Roethlisberger somewhat surprisingly dropped outside of the top 10 after Eli Manning and Philip Rivers had already been drafted, falling to the Steelers after a very rare losing season. He would help them claim their first Super Bowl title since the 1970s just two years into his career. Brooke Pryor writes:
Taken with the No. 11 pick in the 2004 draft, Roethlisberger entered his rookie season as the No. 3 quarterback on the team. But he got on the field earlier than planned when Tommy Maddox suffered an injury in Week 2 and backup Charlie Batch was already sidelined (knee). A week later, Roethlisberger got his first start and led the Steelers to a 13-3 win against the Dolphins. He never relinquished the starting job, making 216 starts in 16 seasons in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger has played in three Super Bowls with two wins and has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times. After an injury-shortened 2019 season, Roethlisberger, 38, is eyeing a comeback in 2020 with a surgically repaired elbow and has expressed confidence he’ll be at full strength when the season starts.
Through 16 seasons—or more like 15—Roethlisberger has completed 4651 of 7230 pass attempts for 56,545 yards, throwing 363 touchdowns and 191 interceptions. He ranks in the top 10 all-time in most statistical passing categories, though with his injury in 2019, he has lost some ground to others who remain active.
Depending upon how much longer he players, Roethlisberger can realistically enter the top five all-time in passing yards, where he is currently eighth, but he is about 15,000 yards away from fourth place, which would take at least four more years to reach.
Currently ninth in passing touchdowns, one behind Aaron Rodgers, it would be more difficult for him to get into the top five here. Dan Marino sits at five with 420, whereas he is nearly 60 behind right now, and both Rivers and Rodgers are likely to keep pace ahead of him, eventually passing Marino themselves. The others in the top five have over 500 touchdown passes.