View Full Version : Harris: Big Ben finally gets elite treatment

10-11-2009, 11:04 PM
Harris: Big Ben finally gets elite treatment
By John Harris
Monday, October 12, 2009

DETROIT Finally, some much-needed love shown for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Yes, the same deep, passionate love affair the NFL has with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning was on display Sunday afternoon at Ford Field when Roethlisberger was taken down at the knees by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Landon Cohen after tossing an interception in the second quarter.

A penalty flag thrown in Roethlisbeger's direction told the story as he disengaged from a tangle of players.

In the offseason, team owners passed a rule that made it illegal for defensive players to dive at a quarterback's legs.

For a change, Roethlisberger's legs were off limits.

"I was surprised,'' said left tackle Max Starks, a six-year veteran. "Very few times since I've been on this team, we've gotten a call like that.''

Instead of Detroit having the ball, the Steelers maintained possession. Five plays later, Roethlisberger's 15-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller gave the Steelers a 14-6 lead en route to a 28-20 victory and gave Roethlisberger some long-anticipated respect.

I don't want to say Roethlisberger has an inferiority complex when it comes to Brady and Manning, but you make the call.

Asked the other day about where he ranks in the quarterback pecking order, Roethlisberger said something to the effect that because Brady and Manning are considered two of the faces of the league, referees tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The implication, of course, is that Roethlisbeger isn't treated with the same respect as his peers.

Upon studying Roethlisbeger's impressive dossier, you have to wonder how come such a double-standard exists, why the Bradys and Mannings receive those calls in their favor, while Roethlisberger generally doesn't.

Roethlisberger's 53-22 record in his first five seasons ranks second among active quarterbacks.

He's won one more Super Bowl than Manning, and one fewer Super Bowl than Brady.

Allegedly a "system" quarterback who has won two Super Bowls because of a great defense, Roethlisberger is proving this season he can be just as effective operating a wide-open, passing attack.

He entered yesterday's game first in completion percentage, third in passing yards and third in yards per completion, as the Steelers ranked third in passing offense.

Against Detroit, Roethlisberger was 23 of 30 for 277 yards, three touchdowns and a interception that was returned for a touchdown. He had a passer rating of 123.9.

After the game, Roethlisberger didn't address the roughing the passer penalty, or how it had been a long time coming since officials had seen fit to throw a flag in his favor.

Roethlisberger spoke only about the tackle itself and what if Cohen had hit him a little harder or held onto him a split-second longer.

"I'm just glad there wasn't any weight on it because it wouldn't have been fun,'' Roethlisberger said.

Instead, Roethlisberger's teammates did his talking for him.

"You pray that referees are going to call it fair. But we always get the short end of the stick,'' Starks said. "When the defense gets Ben, they play roughhouse because they know he's such a physical guy. You can't do it on a case-by-case basis. You have to play it fair. You call it on Drew Brees and Tom Brady, you have to call it on Ben as well.''

Roethlisberger is a franchise quarterback who, despite his lofty credentials, isn't always treated like one.

He shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone at this point, but that's probably a good thing because those slights perceived or otherwise drive him to be the best.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.