As is the norm in sports, current superstars will always be compared to those of yesteryear. I have watched Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since he entered the league in 2004 and became the savior of the team under center. Growing up, I was obviously a football fanatic, and who can forget the Broncos legendary quarterback and warrior, John Elway. The parallels between these two signal callers are almost scary: toughness, clutch gene, the ability to extend plays, comeback victories, and wearing #7. Just as Tom Brady has drawn comparisons to the great Joe Montana, I think the quarterback of today that most resembles John Elway is Big Ben. Let’s break it down.
I still remember the day the Steelers drafted Big Ben in 2004. I almost teared up. Why? Because finally they added a franchise quarterback who could put the Steelers over the hump. Right from the jump, Ben established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, leading the Steelers to 15-1 record in his rookie season and an AFC Title game appearance. Since then, he has three appearances in the Super Bowl, winning two of them. He may not put up all the flashy stats as some of these other guys in the league, but he does have unmatched leadership and toughness; he also has a clutch gene that not many guys have.
Games Started: 113 Career Record: 80-33 Completion Percentage: 63.1 Yards: 26, 579 Touchdowns: 165
Interceptions: 100 QB Rating: 92.1 Comeback Wins: 20 Game Winning Drives: 26
Career Playoff Record: 10-4 Super Bowl Titles: 2
What else can be said about John Elway? The guy defines resilience. He was drafted in 1983 by the then Baltimore Colts, but was traded to the Denver Broncos. He had some up and down years in Denver, but impressively appeared in five Super Bowls, hoisting two Lombardi trophies. He became famous for his fourth quarter play, as he holds the NFL record for game winning drives and is second to only Dan Marino in come from behind wins. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Games Started: 231 Career Record: 148-82-1 Completion Percentage: 56.9 Yards: 51, 475
Touchdowns:300 Interceptions: 226 QB Rating: 79.9 Comeback Wins: 35 Game Winning Drives: 46
Career Playoff Record: 15-6 Super Bowl Titles: 2
Let’s throw stats out the window for a hot minute, and talk about intangibles. You’ll be hard pressed to find quarterbacks who have that “it” factor. There’s been plenty of guys who can put up big numbers, but not everyone can put the team on their back and win a football game. Not everyone has a clutch gene in crunch time to perform in the highest of pressure situations to engineer comebacks and game winning drives. Not only did they do that in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well when it’s “win or go home.” Not everyone has the toughness to play through injuries or the exciting ability to escape the pocket and extend plays after things break down. But, these intangibles are precisely what Roethlisberger is known for now, and what John Elway is so fondly remembered for.
At this very moment, it is nearly impossible to actually compare a Hall of Famer in Elway to a current quarterback with his prime years still infront of him like Roethlisberger. If we’re talking about what the future holds, Big Ben is on pace to surpass Elway in nearly every statistical category, including comebacks and game winning drives. But who’s to say he will start 118 more games to make for an even sample when it’s all said and done? The nod right now has to go to John Elway simply because he is a finished, Hall of Fame product. But it is more than plausible that Roethlisberger surpasses him by the end of his career and joins Elway in the Hall of Fame. It’s no secret that Elway was Roethlisberger’s favorite quarterback when he was growing up, that could be why he seems to emulate Elway on the field in nearly every facet of his game. Nothing wrong with that!