Who's No. 1: Ben or Bradshaw?
THURSDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2012
WRITTEN BY BOB SMIZIK
With the news yesterday that Ben Roethlisberger is perhaps a game away from surpassing Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers record for career passing yards, the obvious follow-up is this:
Which of the two is the greater quarterback?
It might seem an impertinent question, what with Bradshaw not only long ago enshrined in Canton but a legend of the first order, and with Roethlisberger not much more than a hair beyond the mid-point of his career.
Bradshaw is the good ol boy who charms us every Sunday on Fox as a celebrity TV analyst and, of course, the four-time Super Bowl winner -- in four attempts -- on a team that is among the few in the discussion for the greatest ever.
Roethlisberger brings no such charisma to the table. He has an off-field history he’s trying to live down and only his harshest critics would say he’s not doing a good job of it. Someone just meeting up with the post-2010 Roethlisberger might see him as something approaching a good ol boy, although not with the thick Bradshaw charm.
But this discussion is not about personality, it’s about playing. And the answer to the question posted about is a no-brainer.
As someone who knew Bradshaw well and Roethlisberger somewhat less so put it, ``If Ben had played in the '70s, there would have been seasons when they never lost a game.’’
This is no knock at Bradshaw. He’s a legitimate Hall of Famer. He also had what is arguably the greatest supporting cast in NFL history. He had four Hall of Fame players with him on offense -- Franco Harris, Mike Webster, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann. He had four on defense -- Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. And he had most of them for every one of his NFL seasons and all of his Super Bowls.
Roethlisberger has won his two Super Bowls with an ever-changing supporting cast that hasn’t been nearly as good. And that’s not to put down some of Roethlisberger’s teammates. He’s had great ones. But not eight other Hall of Famers for almost every season.
Here’s a large difference in the two.
When the Steelers were winning their first two Super Bowls, Bradshaw, in his fifth and sixth NFL seasons, was little more than along for the ride. Sure, he had his moments. But those first two Super Bowl were built on the back of the greatest defense of all time and a devastating running game.
When Roethlisberger was a rookie, the Steelers went 15-1 and he started 13 of those games. In his second year, they won the Super Bowl. Like Bradshaw, he was not the focal point of those offenses, but he stepped up in the 2005 playoffs, a second-year player, and gave the world an idea of what was to come. After that, he was the show. It took Bradshaw seven years to get to that level.
The numbers clearly favor Roethlisberger, who’s already thrown 168 more completions in 431 fewer attempts than Bradshaw. More significantly, Bradshaw threw two more touchdowns than interceptions in his career, 212-210. Roethlisberger has thrown 72 more touchdowns than interceptions 173-101.
But the numbers are not a fair way to evaluate the two. They played in different eras.
Roethlisberger is the master of the fourth-quarter comeback. When he doesn’t pull a game out, it’s news. With Bradshaw it was the other way. When he did, it was news.
No quarterback’s star will ever shine brighter in Pittsburgh than Bradshaw’s. But when it comes to playing the position, he’s No. 2 to Roethlisberger.