By Jeremy Hritz
As much bashing and unwarranted criticism Ben Roethlisberger has received this off-season, there is a perfect opportunity right now to highlight the positives surrounding Big Ben and the potential for him in the upcoming 2021 season.
While he did not play well in the final stretch of games, including when it mattered most, it is important to remember he was still recovering from elbow surgery. Despite the dip at the conclusion of the season, he still put up robust numbers. With a full year of recovery, Steelers fans should enjoy a healthier and more confident passer who will start to attack the top spots in the NFL career passing record book.
While his predicted demise and benching are more click-worthy than the records he is in striking distance of achieving, it is factual and empirical that Roethlisberger is on the verge of a milestone season for many reasons.
Career Passing Yards
Roethlisberger has the opportunity to move into 5th place all time in terms of NFL career passing yards, as he will enter the season with 60,348 yards. In his sights are Dan Marino and Phillip Rivers, and with 3093 yards, he will claim the fifth spot. In order to move beyond that spot, Ben would have to eclipse 71,838 yards, which is the career passing total for Brett Favre. If he could pass Favre, he would also likely pass Peyton Manning, but this will require more than 1 more productive season, and at this point, that seems unlikely.
Currently, Ben has 5050 career completions and has the opportunity to move into 5th place all time by surpassing Rivers, who has 5277. Roethlisberger needs only 227 completions to make this a reality, and again, barring a catastrophe, he will own this record come the end of the season. To go beyond the 5th spot will require additional seasons, as Manning has 6125 completions.
Career Touchdown Passes
Roethlisberger will enter 2021 with 396 touchdown passes, which is currently good for 8th place all-time. In front of him is Aaron Rodgers, who will probably play longer than Ben, with 412, while Marino (420) holds the 6th spot and Rivers (421) the 5th. While unlikely he can catch Rodgers, as his career will persist, with 26 touchdown passes this season, Roethlisberger will jump both Marino and Rivers.
While mathematically, climbing into 4th place all time for career wins for a quarterback is possible this season, it is unlikely. Ben currently has 156 total wins, 16 wins behind Drew Brees, who retired last season. The Steelers winning 16 games in 2021 seems improbable, but if they do, they are more than likely on the verge of a Super Bowl winning season. If Roethlisberger plans has a successful season and plays an additional year, he will climb into 4th place all time for career wins.
Fact: Roethlisberger Is Among the Greats
There is no denying the company Ben keeps in the history of NFL quarterbacks, as he is on the short list with the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and Dan Marino. I didn’t even mention Ben’s career 94 passer rating, and his membership in the exclusive 500 club, throwing for 500 yards three times, and being one of only 18 quarterbacks to hit this number. And oh yeah, he played in 3 Super bowls and won 2.
Roethlisberger is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and his 2021 season will be decorated by the achievement of the aforementioned career milestones. But Ben has never been a stats guy, and more important to him is the success of his team, and anything short of a winning season and a playoff run will fall below his standards.
With a rejuvenated offense through the addition of Matt Canada as offensive coordinator, the retooling of the offensive line, and the drafting of Najee Harris at running back, this is the start of a new chapter for Big Ben, one that he is driven to conclude with a happily-ever-after ending. While the pundits say otherwise, Roethlisberger stills has enough of the tools and the mental acumen to put together a productive passing season and keep the Steelers in contention.
Here’s to Ben proving them all wrong.