The Pittsburgh Steelers have as many Super Bowl trophies as anybody in the history of the NFL. Along with the Dallas Cowboys, they are also the only organizations to have won multiple Super Bowls with multiple starting quarterbacks.
Neither of them, however, qualify among the top-10 greatest quarterbacks to play in a Super Bowl. At least not according to NFL Network writer Gregg Rosenthal. Both four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw and two-time champion Ben Roethlisberger were left outside of the top 10 of his full ranking of all 66 quarterbacks—with Rex Grossman all the way on the bottom.
In fact, Roethlisberger only comes in at 15, behind Roger Staubach, Drew Brees, Bart Starr, and Fran Tarkenton. And Bradshaw comes in two spots later, with the Cowboys’ three-time champion Troy Aikman sandwiched in between.
To be clear, Rosenthal’s list appears only to rank the careers of every quarterback to have started a Super Bowl game. The scope is not limited to said quarterbacks’ performances in Super Bowl games specifically, which would make more sense for a list in which Roethlisberger is ranked at 15.
“I ranked all quarterbacks based on career achievements, with regular-season excellence, All-Pro/Pro Bowl appearances and seasons as top-five and top-10 players at the position carrying more weight than just Super Bowl success”, he says, a seeming effort to produce a veil of objectivity over his list.
“Roethlisberger was a top-five quarterback for the better part of his career, especially after his second Super Bowl triumph (following the 2008 season)”, he writes. “I’m not going to ding him for not being Brady in his late 30s”.
It’s true that Roethlisberger’s best years in terms of his individual performances came after the Steelers’ team successes, when he developed more as a passer and grew to understand offenses better. He won two Super Bowls within his first five seasons, but only returned to the game once after, and lost.
As for Bradshaw, Rosenthal only notes that he “wasn’t great in the seasons preceding his first two Super Bowl triumphs (1975-76), but he wound up being a league MVP (in 1978) and finishing in the top five in yards per attempt five times”.
Topping the list, as you might expect, is Tom Brady at number one, followed by Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Steve Young, John Elway, and Patrick Mahomes to round out the top 10. We already mentioned Staubach, Brees, Starr, and Tarkenton taking us to 15.
These are all of the quarterbacks who made a start in a Super Bowl whom Rosenthal believes has had a better career than Roethlisberger. He also believes that Roethlisberger had a better career than Bradshaw, which some Steelers fans may disagree with.