There’s a New “Berg” in the
Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger, a junior out of Miami
(Ohio) University, with their first pick in the 2004 NFL draft. He was
the third quarterback taken at that point in the draft, but due to
unfortunate circumstances, he will be the first rookie quarterback to
make his first NFL start Sunday against Miami. His start precedes those
of Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Philip Rivers of the San Diego
Chargers, the two quarterbacks selected higher than he.
The plan from the beginning of the
season was to ease Roethlisberger into action late in runaway games; and
for him to take over as full-time starter at the start of the 2005
season. However, that was not exactly the case last week, when “Big Ben”
saw his first NFL action.
With 11:53 left in the third
quarter and the Steelers trailing 20-0, Tommy Maddox was sacked by
Raven’s corner Gary Baxter and hurt on the play on what appears to be a
severe strain of the muscles in his right elbow, his throwing arm.
“You could see it on the replay.
It did not look good,” said wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. “I pray for
him. That’s a tough injury right there.”
Randle El better pray for the team
as well, who at the start of the pre-season was expected to compete with
Baltimore for the AFC North title. With the loss of their top two
quarterbacks (Maddox and back-up Charlie Batch), the Steelers are in
Due to the current lack of depth at
the position, the Steelers had no choice but to turn to their rookie.
Roethlisberger came in to the game with the Steelers down by 20 and in
the process of being shutout. Other complexities included a non-existent
running game, anemic passing, and playing in a hostile environment
against one of the league’s most ferocious defenses.
“It’s not the ideal scenario to come
into a game,” said Coach Bill Cowher. “On the road, being down 20-0, and
the Ravens not honoring your running game at that point. I would say he
wasn’t dealt a real good hand to begin with.”
Despite numerous obstacles, “Big Ben”
completed 12 of 20 passes for 176 yards, threw for two touchdowns, but
also threw two interceptions. One of those interceptions was returned 50
yards for a touchdown by the Raven’s Chris McAlister. Roethlisberger
would have thrown a third if safety Ed Reed had not dropped the pass,
which instead bounced off his hands into those of Hines Ward who turned
it into a 58 yard reception. The catch set up Roethlisberger’s first
touchdown pass, a three-yarder to Antwaan Randle El.
In fact, it was a day full of firsts
for Roethlisberger; first play (a hand off to Duce Staley), first pass
completion (21 yards to Plaxico Burress), first interception (Adalius
Thomas), first touchdown pass (Randle El), first sack (Will Demps), and
first interception returned for a touchdown (Chris McAlister).
“Of course he didn’t play the game
he wanted to play, but what rookie comes in and makes all of the first
throws?” said Hines Ward who caught 6 passes for 151 yards and a
At Bill Cowher’s weekly press
conference on Tuesday he had this to say about the situation. “Let me
give you the update in regard to the health status. First of all, we
have signed Mike Quinn, a quarterback. We have added him to the
practice squad. At this time, that is the move we made in regard to the
injury to Tommy (Maddox), which as I stated yesterday, is basically a
six-week no throwing motion, and then we will kind of go from there. He
has a strain of ligaments and tendons in his right elbow. I think given
what the initial possible diagnosis could have been, it was the
best-case scenario, which makes Ben (Roethlisberger) the starter.”
Many people feel as if the season is
lost, that a rookie quarterback can only carry a team so far.
Roethlisberger did both good and bad things on Sunday. He made smart
decisions along with awfully stupid ones. Regardless of whether you like
him or not, Roethlisberger, for better or for worse, will become the
first NFL rookie quarterback to start a game this Sunday in Miami.
Says Plaxico Burress,
“We’re not going to have any trouble to go out and support him. He’s
going to be the future of this team, eventually. It wouldn’t be a better
time for him to go out and start.”
Photo By Ramesh C. Reddy
(Photo taken during a basketball game)
(Statistics and quotations taken from the
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