Sunday Steelers Look Back: The Day Ben Roethlisberger Was Drafted

It’s looking more and more like training camps will get underway on time this summer with the rookies reporting for duty this coming week. This means that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is about to start his 17th training camp so with that, I thought we would use this Sunday to take a quick look back at the day he was drafted by not only looking back at his actual selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, but his scouting report and conference call transcript with the media as well. Additionally, a look back at what general manager Kevin Colbert and then-head coach Bill Cowher both had to say about the selection of Roethlisberger should also be interesting to several on this Sunday.

On with the look back at Apr 24, 2004 and the day that Roethlisberger became a member of the Steelers.

The Build Up To The Section Of Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers Selection Of Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger Draft Day Bio

Miami University of Ohio RedHawks
Findlay, Ohio
Findlay High School

Three-year starter…Blessed with the size of a linebacker and the mobility of a tailback, this field leader has drawn comparisons to former Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly for his ability to remain cool under pressure and strike from anywhere on the field…In 38 games, he rewrote virtually every school game, season and career passing records…Completed 854 of 1,304 passes (65.5%) for 10,829 yards, 84 touchdowns and 34 interceptions, topping the previous all-time records of 903 pass attempts, 6,524 yards and 49 scores by Mike Bath (1997-2000), 484 pass completions by Sam Ricketts (1994-97), 27 interceptions by Larry Fortner (1975-78) and 61.6 pass completion percentage by Terry Morris (1985-86)…Added 246 yards and seven scores on 269 carries (0.9 avg.)…Set another RedHawks career-record with 11,075 yards in total offense, surpassing the old mark of 7,010 yards by Bath…Became only the third player in Mid-American Conference history to throw for over 3,000 yards in three seasons and was the 10th passer in conference annals to throw for over 10,000 yards in a career…Became only the eighth player in school history to earn All-American honors… Can also handle punting chores, kicking 24 times for 963 yards (40.1 avg.), with 17 attempts downed inside the 20-yard line…Tall, mobile passer with long arms and good quickness, balance and change-of-direction agility…Shows good fluidity and quickness in his pass set…Very good at reading defenses, showing patience and the ability to pick apart the zones…Has an above average, snappy release and excellent arm strength…Generates good velocity behind his deep tosses and is equally accurate throwing from the pocket or on the move…Shows great poise in the pocket and is never rattled by pressure…While he does not have blazing speed to escape, he does show good mobility to roll away from the rush and step up to avoid the sack…Has the powerful leg drive needed to break tackles and move the chains when running with the ball…Has a compact throwing motion and excellent touch (knows when to take something off the ball, when needed)…Has a fluid over-the-top throwing motion and shows consistency throwing from the opposite hash…Will sit in and take a hit vs. the blitz, yet still make the proper throw…Would look to run at the first sign of pressure earlier in his career, but over the years, has settled down, showing patience in the pocket while trying to locate his secondary targets…Effective emergency punter, who does a nice job of angling his kicks towards the sidelines.

All-American first-team selection by The NFL Draft Report, earning third-team honors from the Associated Press…Semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top passer…All-Mid American Conference first-team choice and named the conference’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year…Guided the team to its first bowl appearance since 1986 and its first postseason victory in 28 seasons…Led an offense that established conference season records with 553 points scored and 7,016 yards in total offense…In 14 games, he completed 342 of 495 passes (69.1%) for 4486 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions, breaking his own 2002 school season-records (attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns)…Gained 111 yards with three scores on 67 carries (1.7 avg.)…Totaled 4,597 yards in offense, breaking his own 2001 record of 3,294 yards.

Iowa…In the team’s only loss for 2003, he hit on 27 of 42 attempts for 250 yards and a career-high 4 interceptions.
Northwestern…Bounced back to complete on 28 of 37 passes (75.7%) for 353 yards and 3 scores, including 18 & 61-yarders to Martin Nance.
Colorado State…Gained 330 yards on 29 of 39 chances and a pair of scores.
Cincinnati…Hit on 31 of 49 passes for 377 yards with 7 & 14-yard touchdowns to Matt Brandt.
Akron…Ran for 1 & 6-yard touchdowns, adding 369 yards and 2 scores on 31 of 47 passes.
Buffalo…Completed 18 of 24 attempts for 234 yards and 4 touchdowns, including 6 & 30-yarders to Michael Larkin.
Ball State…Followed with 23 of 31 throws for 215 yards and a pair of scores.
Kent State…Rallied the team to a 38-30 decision as he hit on 28 of 44 passes for 409 yards and 3 touchdowns (26, 11 & 4-yarders to Nance) and picked up 38 yards on 7 carries…His 409 yards rank fourth on the school’s game-record list.
Bowling Green…Did not throw a touchdown as he connected on 19 of 28 passes for 230 yards, but did score on a 1-yard plunge as he totaled 32 yards on 8 rushes.
Marshall…Gained 282 yards on 18 of 29 tosses with 2 scores.
Ohio University…Completed 19 of 28 throws for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns, including 2 & 34-yarders to Nance.
Central Florida…Hit on 24 of 29 passes (82.8%) for 327 yards and 5 scores…His five touchdowns tied the school game-record, first set by Sam Ricketts vs. Akron in 1995 and matched by Ben vs. Ohio University in 2001.
Bowling Green (MAC Championship)…Connected on 26 of 35 throws for a season-high 440 yards (third-best game total in school history) and 4 scores, including a 55-yarder to Cal Murray.
Louisville (GMAC Bowl)…Led the team to its first postseason victory in 28 years (49-28) as he completed 21 of 33 passes for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns, including 26 & 28-yarders to Larkin.

All-American honorable mention and All-MAC second-team pick by The NFL Draft Report,
Adding second-team All-MAC honors from the league’s media…Completed 271 of 428 passes (63.3%) for 3238 yards and 22 touchdowns…Scored once on 82 carries…Also had 11 punts for 482 yards (43.8 avg), with nine kicks downed inside the 20-yard line.

North Carolina…Opened the season with 16 of 23 throws for 204 yards and a score.
Iowa…Connected on 33 of 51 tosses for 343 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 27-yarder to Michael Larkin.
Akron…Added 16 of 22 passes (72.7%) for 240 yards and 2 scores.
Cincinnati…Followed with 27 of 38 tries for 240 yards and a 6-yard touchdown to Larkin.
Northern Illinois…Set MAC game-records with 41 pass completions (61 attempts) for 525 yards, adding 4 touchdowns, including 12 & 51-yarders to Jason Branch and also ran for a 10-yard score, earning MAC Player of the Week honors.
Buffalo…Hit on 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Toledo…Named MAC Special Teams Player of the Week as he punted 3 times (all three punts were downed inside the 20-yard line) for 129 yards (43.0 avg.) with a long of 58 yards…Also threw for 299 yards on 22 of 31 attempts.
Ohio University…Connected on 21 of 31 tosses for 248 yards with touchdowns of 5 & 13 yards to Larkin.
Marshall…Had 16 of 33 throws for 247 yards and 3 scores, including a 49-yarder to Luke Clemens.
Central Florida…Closed out the year with 23 of 41 passes for 271 yards and a score.

Was the nation’s premier first-year quarterback, earning first-team Football Writer’s Association of America Freshman All-American honors…Was the first RedHawk to earn MAC Freshman of the Year since Deland McCullough in 1992…Named second-team All-MAC…First freshman in the program’s history to be nominated for the MAC’s Vern Smith MVP award…Ranked second in the conference in passing yards (258.8 ypg), total offense (274.5 ypg), pass efficiency (146.5) and touchdowns…Re-wrote the Miami single-season record book for passing yards (3,105), completions (241), touchdown passes (25), completion percentage (.663) and total offense (3,294)…His passing yards, touchdown passes and total offense were tops in the nation among freshman signal-callers…Set MAC freshman records for passing yards and touchdown passes…Threw touchdown passes in his first nine collegiate games after starting just twelve games in high school at quarterback…Earned MAC Eastern Division Offensive Player of the Week against Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Akron…Named USA Today MAC Player of the Week three times (Cincinnati, Akron, and Bowling Green).
Michigan…Facing the nationally-ranked Wolverines defense in his collegiate debut, he hit on 18 of 35 passes for 193 yards and a pair of scores…Added 93 yards on 12 carries, including an 80-yard run.

Cincinnati…Gained 264 yards on 20 of 25 tries (80.0%) with 2 touchdowns, including a 43-yarder to Michael Larkin…Also ran for an 11-yard score.
Buffalo…Completed 23 of 30 tosses for 212 yards with 2 touchdowns.
Akron…Rushed 10 times for 59 yards and connected on 23 of 40 attempts for 399 yards with touchdowns of 31 yards to Cal Murray and 70 yards to Eddie Tillitz.
Ohio University…Hit on 24 of 37 throws for 322 yards and 4 scores.
Western Michigan…Followed with 18 of 29 attempts for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Bowling Green…Totaled 305 yards on 15 of 25 tries with 2 scores, including a career-long 81-yarder to Larkin that gave the team a 24-21 decision.
Hawaii…Ran for a 9-yard touchdown and completed 40 of 53 passes for 452 yards (second-best game total in school history) and 3 scores, including a 39-yarder to Chauncey Henry.
Kent State…Finished the season by hitting on 20 of 36 passes for 238 yards and a score.

Redshirted as a freshman.

Attended Findlay (Oh.) High, but only played football as a senior…Still, he earned Ohio’s Division I Offensive Player of the Year in 1999…Runner-up for 1999 Mr. Football honors in Ohio…Set state records by throwing for 4,041 yards and 54 touchdowns during his senior campaign and also ran for seven scores…Named League, District and Toledo Blade Player of the Year…Helped the team compile a 23-9 record, which included two league champion-ships and a state playoff appearance, with him as a team member…Findlay went 10-2 in 1999, advancing to second round of state playoffs before losing to Grove City…Participant in Ohio North-South and Ohio-Pennsylvania Big 33 All-Star games…Tossed two touchdowns, including the game-winner, in the North-South game…Coached by Cliff Hite…All-League and All-District performer in baseball and basketball…Team captain in all three sports…Averaged 26.5 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game as a senior point guard in basketball…A .300 hitter as a shortstop for Findlay’s baseball squad…Earned second-team All-League and All-District honors in basketball and baseball.

Physical Education major…Son of Ken and Brenda Roethlisberger…Born 3/02/82… Resides in Findlay, Ohio.

Ben Roethlisberger Conference Call Transcript

Did you expect this to happen?

It was something I was looking forward to. I did not know what was going to happen obviously. But once they called on the phone and told me I was coming, I was more than happy to come.

I could not help but notice that you wore black and gold today?

Yes, I joked around that I knew this was going to happen, that is why I did it.

What do you think your timetable is as far as starting?

It is hard say without talking to Coach (Cowher). I am more than willing to do whatever it is that Coach asks of me that is best for the team, whether that is coming in and play right now or learn behind Tommy (Maddox) for a little while. Whatever it is that the team asks of me and is best for the team, I am more than willing to do.

Do you think it is possible that you can start this year, without putting a percentage on it, if they ruled that out?

I don’t know, if they ask me to then I will be ready to do whatever I can. The big thing is that hopefully, if Tommy Maddox is willing to, I would like to learn as much as I can from him being a veteran and the quarterback there that he is. I am more than willing to learn everything that he is willing to teach me.

They talk about you not having as much experience, but how much more can you get than a three year starter?

That is a big thing, people knocked me for time that I played and the level of competition, but I have played there for three years. I have been in school for four. Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, and Byron Leftwich came out from the MAC. They are not doing too badly right now in the NFL.

Having come after guys like that (Randy Moss, Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington) they have kind of set a precedence for guys coming out of the MAC as first-round picks?

That is the fun thing about it. They have done so well and they have set the standard and paved the way for us. First of all, them coming out of the MAC and doing so well in the NFL it is going to be fun trying to live up to those standards that they set.

Your only visit was to Pittsburgh during the pre-draft visits?

Absolutely, I hope it is a sign of things to come.

Where is it that you live in Ohio?

Findlay, Ohio.

How far is that from Cleveland?

From Cleveland, it is only a couple of hours.

Where you a Browns fan?

No, growing up I was a 49ers fan.

Do you think your high school did you a favor or a disservice by not starting you until your senior year?

Looking at it right now I am not going to complain too much.

Did you hate the Browns growing up?

I did not necessarily hate them, but I was not a big fan at all. Just because so many people liked them around me I wasn’t a big fan at all. I don’t hate them I just wasn’t a big fan.

Did most people root for the Browns or Cincinnati?

A little bit of both, well I’m from, my home is the Browns but I went to school in Miami, so close to Cincinnati, so I’m a mixture of both Ohio teams

So what you’re saying is you’re going to have to get a lot of tickets when you go on the road there?

It’ll be good a lot of people will come to Pittsburgh, also.

How about your parents, are they Browns or Bengals fans?

Neither, they never like any, my dad is actually a Giants fan, he grew up in New York. But they are big Pittsburgh fans now.

You had to think you were going to the Giants at one point?

Well, you know there was a lot of talk, you know, its not necessarily, what’s going to happen when people just talk so, I’m looking back now I have no regrets and I’m happy to be a Steeler.

Where is your family now Ben are they with you?

I don’t know I haven’t seen them in a little while. I have been doing so many of these things. I don’t know where they are actually.

I mean are they in New York?

Oh yeah, definitely, they’re in New York with me.

Hey Ben, they passed out a release here that says you’re a great field leader, comparable to Jim Kelly that’s pretty high profile?

Whenever someone compares you to a quarterback in the NFL especially one as good as Jim Kelly, it’s obviously quite an honor. I have said many times, if I could be half as good as Jim Kelly was, I would be very happy. I want to try to be my own quarterback. Like I said, it is quite an honor to be compared to people like that.

What NFL quarterbacks did you admire growing up?

I am a huge Joe Montana fan.

How far can you throw the ball?

Probably about 75 yards.

Do you have anything against playing receiver before you play quarterback?

Obviously, it worked out pretty good right now.

Your offensive lineman, Jacob Bell, would he be a good fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers later on in the draft?

Hey that would be great. I would love to play behind Jacob. I’ve done it for the last couple years. I think it would be great for him to be there, I trust him with all my heart and body, because he’s protected me for a long time.

He’s played a lot of positions there, what is his best position?

His best position is on the line, he can do it all. The only thing I haven’t seen him play is center, but I’m sure he could do that if he was asked to. He’s such a great athlete and has such great talent. You know I would trust him at both tackle and guard, and I would trust him at center.

Your dad was a quarterback, did he kind of train you as a kid or steer you to the position?

Absolutely not, I was truly blessed that my dad never pushed me like that. He always said whatever I wanted to do he would support me, and be willing to help me out in any way possible. Like I said, I am truly blessed. He would, if I ever wanted to go out and throw, he would help me out. But he would never force or push anything upon me.

You punted a few times, in your career. Any punts at all last year, as a senior?

Yes, I punted a couple of times last year.

Are you like a pooch specialist?

Yeah, I kind of was, I averaged over forty though, like forty-two. But I was kind of a poocher. I put 85 percent I think inside the 20.

So you really weren’t a good poocher then, is that what you’re saying?

It’s my left foot.

Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher On Ben Roethlisberger:

KEVIN COLBERT: It’s our pleasure to announce the selection of Ben Roethlisberger. We’re very, very excited about this opportunity to add a young quarterback.
As we said in the pre-draft briefing, we thought this was a realistic possibility. The more research we did, the truer it became. Then it just came to us. It was great.
We’re excited. We think this kid’s potential is unlimited. I don’t even think he’s scratched the surface yet. As Bill alluded to on his ESPN interview a few seconds ago, this kid hasn’t played a lot at quarterback, having only played the position one year in high school, and really three years in college. He hasn’t peaked yet. We’re excited when he does peak, he’s going to be a Steeler. Coach.

COACH COWHER: I think, again, the bottom line is hopefully we don’t plan on being up here this often. If you have an opportunity to get a good, young quarterback who has a tremendous upside, it’s too golden of an opportunity to pass.

Q. He can’t really be expected to help you next year. Do you consider it a gutsy move?
COACH COWHER: I think, again, it’s all how you want to view it. As I stated, when we sat there, as you said even putting this board together, the higher you are, you get some quality opportunities. There are some quality football players.
So even though you look at needs, and while there may have been other needs that may have been of higher priority, the opportunity to get a quality football player has to take priority over that – particularly when you look at the quarterback position.
So, I think that you can call it gutsy or whatever. I think what you have to do is put your trust into how you view a player, how the board has been put together, and to follow that. I think that’s very important to do, particularly the higher you’re picking in a round.

Q. Will you want him to sit, not start right away this year?
COACH COWHER: We’ll wait and see what happens. There’s no pre-conceived thoughts. With four quarterbacks, this is a good situation to be in because of the veterans we have in front of him, because of the veterans we have on our offensive football team. If there is a situation for a young quarterback to not come in and feel the pressures of having to turn a football team around, we think this is one of those situations that exists.

Q. Did other teams try to trade up for your pick?
KEVIN COLBERT: We had some discussions. Like we said on Monday, we were probably going to make a pick. It would have taken a lot for us to drop. We were very happy, again, to have this opportunity. It would have taken a ton for us to move.

Q. Were you worried someone was going to switch the No. 10, jump above you?
KEVIN COLBERT: We were good. We said this again on Monday, too. We had 11 guys. We weren’t going to lose in this situation. There was no way we could lose. Just the way it unfolded, it was great. There was no reason to panic. There was no reason to do something crazy to go up. You were going to get a good player. I know we got a good player. We feel good about it. It worked out for us.

Q. Any possibility you might try and trade one of your two veterans now that you have Roethlisberger?
KEVIN COLBERT: What we’re going to do, as Bill said, hey, we got a nice young kid in the fold. I think you look at our quarterback situation, it’s now become, with two solid veterans. We have a young kid in Brian St. Pierre that has a future. Now we got a kid, Ben Roethlisberger. That’s really a position of strength.
You can never have – we’ve said a million times – enough good players at any one position, especially at this one, because this is the most important.

Q. What do you like about the way he plays?
COACH COWHER: I think when you look at him athletically, I think a lot of people have talked about athletically he may have a lot better attributes than some of the other two picked in front of him, but I think certainly the experience factor, certainly the questions of where he played. Even though Pennington and Leftwich have certainly proven to be pretty quality quarterbacks, maybe Byron still yet to be seen. He’s had a pretty good rookie year. I think this kid, a lot of upside. Again, the thing he lacks is experience. He played his senior year, got moved. Played quarterback there three years. This year a lot of people pointed to one game he played maybe poorly against. That was early in the season. Down the stretch, this kid has played very well. Again, I think he’s only going to get better the more he plays.

Q. Did you get any trade offers today?
KEVIN COLBERT: No. I think it’s going to be a good day. We can go the rest of the draft, just let it roll. We’re not going to actively going to try to move anybody today. We’ll just see where it goes. It worked in the first round. I hope it will work the rest of the way, too. Sometimes patience pays off.

Q. Are you going to take the phone off of the hook?
KEVIN COLBERT: That’s crazy (laughter).

Q. Who called Roethlisberger?
KEVIN COLBERT: Phil Kreidler is the person that handles the calls. Phil made the contact. Coach Cowher got on the phone with Ben. We always like to talk to the player, the coach likes to talk to the player, get a nice feeling talking to the kid, maybe turn the pick in. As soon as the coach talked to the player, we were happy to turn it in. We needed some extra time just to spell it (laughter).

Q. Did you realize you had a national audience?
COACH COWHER: I didn’t. After he made the call, I couldn’t go in there and keep him waiting. Like Kevin said, rather have him talking to you instead of talking to Phil. We made our conversation real short. We knew he was on the camera. I told him we’d call him back, but congratulations.

Q. MAC Conference isn’t a major power conference. Better over the years. Great players coming out of it. Your thoughts on the kind of football played in that conference.
KEVIN COLBERT: Mid-American Conference, even though people view it as a notch below some of the others, SEC, Big-10, whatever, they’ve been very competitive. Especially last year, there was a lot of upsets involved. When you watch Ben play in the MAC Conference, he did what he should do in that conference, and that was dominate. There was no question that he was the best player in that conference. That’s what you expect. If it’s viewed to be less of a competitive conference, you want that player to dominate, and he certainly did that. Again, we don’t think he’s reached his peak yet. We’re getting a guy, he’s on his way up. Some of his physical attributes are just very excited to have those in this player.

Q. Bill, was there some point either during the playing season or when he came to visit that kind of put him over the top in your mind?
COACH COWHER: I think the more you studied him, just when you watched him, the more information you gathered on him, I think you looked at those three quarterbacks, and they clearly separated themselves I think from the rest of the group. So it was just putting them in order. Then the question is, if you have an opportunity to get one of these three… There’s some other good quarterbacks in this draft. This is probably a good draft for quarterbacks. Again, the more you study the guy, I think the thing you’ve got to look at, the level of competition, but when they played Bowling Green, both those teams were ranked in the Top 25, they had some big wins over some major-conference schools. Again, the more you watch the guy, his arm strength, his mobility, his accuracy on the run, on the move. Then when you look again from the standpoint of how much playing, he only played that position, quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple comes in for the first year and has a pretty good quarterback to work with. So, again, I think you look at our situation, it was an ideal situation for him to come into.

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