The topic's going to come up sooner or later, so let’s put it out in the open right now. Will Ben Roethlisberger one day be enshrined as one of football’s all-time best in Canton?
It was an easy answer 14 months ago. The Pittsburgh Steelers were still buzzing from the team’s second Super Bowl win in four seasons and Roethlisberger, then only 26, was years ahead of the curve for titles - and the potential for more - in a young quarterback’s career.
Last season, this season and next were to be the years Roethlisberger would solidify his numbers from a statistical standpoint - as if it even seemed he still would need to - and he’s well on his way.
Roethlisberger has a 60-26 record in the regular season as a starter and a 8-2 record in the playoffs. He’ll eclipse the 20,000-yard mark this year for passing in the regular season and be close to doubling his touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio.
Terry Bradshaw can complain all he wants, but Roethlisberger, if he stays healthy, will accomplish what the previous-greatest quarterback in franchise history did in 14 seasons in only about eight or nine.
Sure, a lot of that can be attributed to the changing style of NFL offenses since Bradshaw’s playing days, but Roethlisberger’s versatility compared to Bradshaw shouldn’t be discounted. Roethlisberger’s done what’s been asked of him and more.
As of recent, he’s done that off the field too. Commissioner Roger Goodell bestowed a suspension on the quarterback without truly a strong enough reason and each day it’s looking like it will be lessened - possibly to even less than the four-game minimum originally dished out.
Goodell stated the suspension wasn’t based on findings different from those made public after Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault by a 20-year-old college student in Georgia, but rather for engaging in conduct that can’t “remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league.”
Assuming these spats with controversy are a thing of the past for Roethlisberger once the suspension expires, it’ll be interesting to see what bearing it will still hold when the career of ‘Big Ben’ comes to a close and five years later he becomes eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Goodell took over for Paul Tagliabue after the Super Bowl XL win in the summer of 2006. No player who saw a season under Goodell’s watch has become eligible yet.
Among players suspended for violating Goodell’s personal conduct policy, Roethlisberger has the highest profile aside from Michael Vick and his hall of fame resume is head and shoulders above all others.
When Roethlisberger becomes eligible, the suspension won’t be forgotten by voters and they’ll have to individually decide how much they want to factor it in - just like how they’ve done in the past for a player like Michael Irvin and will have to also do for a player like Ray Lewis.
If I had a vote, again assuming Roethlisberger stays in the free and clear, I’d say he’s in, hands down.
For every 10 bad stories about ‘Big Ben,’ there’s 10 good ones I’m more likely to believe than an underage drunk girl’s incoherent tale to the cops she later declined to pursue.
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