Well, as my first topic post over here, I dragged up this article from the past (July 2004) for a bit of "nostalgia"... Interesting to see the opinions of Ben as he began his journey...
Talented QB Better be Ready For Pressure.
It’s a good operation out there ... a great place to play football.”
— Paul Tagliabue to Ben Roethlisberger, April 24
* * *
“I hope that along with that big body, he also brings some thick skin.”
— Mark Malone about Ben Roethlisberger, April 25
By BOB LABRIOLA
It’s different. It just is.
Ben Roethlisberger simultaneously is living a dream and trying to make the most difficult adjustment of his life. His dream of being an NFL quarterback became a reality on the first day of the NFL draft, and he is entering the league with all of the pomp that comes with being a first-round choice.
But there’s a lot more to it, and only part of that has to do with mastering the intricacies of the pro game. Part of it has to do with geography, because being an NFL quarterback
in Pittsburgh has a job description unto itself.
“Given Pittsburgh’s background, both in terms of winning Super Bowls and also it being a Rust Belt city with a blue-collar work ethic, people demand that their football teams be great ... and it starts with the quarterback,” said Mark Malone. “You don’t have to be the
best quarterback in the NationalFootball League to win a Super Bowl. We all understand that, but you have to be able to do the things necessary not to lose football games, and win some close games.”
Malone is uniquely qualified to speak on this issue, because he was a hot-shot college quarterback who was drafted in the first round by the Steelers. In his role as a play-byplay announcer on ESPN’s college football telecasts, he saw Roethlisberger play for Miami University. And as a guy who followed Terry Bradshaw under center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he knows that what he faced here was different than what he faced when he played for the San Diego Chargers and the New York Jets.
“This is exactly how it’s going to go,” said Malone, now the sports anchor for WBBM-TV in Chicago. “I can remember when I was drafted in 1980 as the first quarterback picked in the first round by the Steelers since Bradshaw in 1970, and the town welcomed me with open arms. I was the golden boy. Then in 1984 we went to the AFC Championship Game, and I was really the golden boy. Then we had a couple of tough years, and I went
from the golden boy to living in the outhouse. That’s just the way it is in the NFL.”
And especially so in Pittsburgh. Today, Bradshaw is a living legend in this town, but not even four Lombardi trophies and two Super Bowl MVP awards immunized him from the ire of the citizenry whenever his play was judged to be substandard.
“I saw it from both ends,” said Malone. “I watched from the sidelines when Terry Bradshaw had the crowd at Three Rivers Stadium cheer when he got hurt and had to
leave a game. That’s just the way it’s going to be, and Ben has to understand that he can’t take it personally. He needs to understand that it’s a job, he has a job to do and he’s going to be judged solely on his performance. If they win, he’s going to be accepted. If the Steelers don’t win with him at the helm, he’s not going to be accepted.
And it’s as cut-and-dried as that.”
If Bradshaw could get booed in Pittsburgh, anyone can, and while Malone advises Roethlisberger not to take it personally he also understands that is easier said than done.
Malone was subjected to derisive chants, tasteless signs; one nut crashed a gate at an empty Three Rivers Stadium and drove his car up the ramps until he wrecked into a
concession stand to leave a mess of nacho cheese sauce, and when he was arrested he told police he did it because Malone’s play made him crazy.
Even with that, it’s still arguable whether Malone even got the most abuse. Cliff Stoudt was pelted with snowballs when he returned to Pittsburgh as a USFL quarterback; Bubby Brister was mocked; Neil O’Donnell was blamed for losing Super Bowl XXX; and Kordell
Stewart was vilified. Welcome to Pittsburgh, Ben.
“You hear athletes say they don’t hear the crowd, or read the newspapers, or take it personally, but we’re all human beings with egos,” said Malone. “We all want to be patted
on the butt and told we’re doing a great job, and so when people jump down your throat — whether it’s being booed by 50,000 people in a stadium or being ripped in the
media — it’s tough to ignore that.
“It’s tough to say that it doesn’t bother you. As a professional, you try to leave it at the door and do your job. To say it doesn’t affect you whatsoever is just not telling the
IN BEN’S WORDS:
On how he compares to Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, both of whom were drafted before
“Everyone seems to think they have better systems, they played against better teams, have been born in a football family. I feel that once I get on the field, my will to win is much greater than both of them. I don’t know theirs, but I know mine. I think I bring a little more athleticism than both of them, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
On being drafted by the Steelers:
“It’s such a storied tradition here. Great players have come through here, and they have had great teams. That’s why it’s such an honor to come here and try to carry on the tradition, and hopefully get another trophy case with some more Super Bowl trophies in it.”
On his immediate expectations for himself:
“I’m willing to do whatever the team asks of me. I want to talk to Tommy (Maddox) and Charlie (Batch) and absorb any knowledge I can from them. Whatever they are willing to help me with, I’m going to take it all in because I want to be the best I can be and I’m going to need those guys to help me, hopefully as much as I can help them by competing.”