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Thread: Former Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell nearly returned to start over Ben Roethlisberger

  1. #1
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    Former Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell nearly returned to start over Ben Roethlisberger

    Former Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell nearly returned to start over Ben Roethlisberger

    Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Matt Fitzgerald | Last updated 1/21/21

    Ben Roethlisberger almost had a wildly different start to his lengthy tenure as Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback. Neil O’Donnell was all but finished with his NFL career when he got the call from his former head coach Bill Cowher to return to the team in 2004.

    The beginning of Roethlisberger’s tenure indeed could’ve gone very differently. Big Ben got drafted 11th overall out of Miami (Ohio) in 2004, and O’Donnell had only returned for one game in 2003 for the Titans, as Jeff Fisher lured him out of his initial retirement following the 2002 campaign.

    After a five-year stint serving as Steve McNair’s backup with the Tennessee Titans ran its course, O’Donnell nearly came back for a 15th NFL season. However, he declined Cowher’s offer, Pittsburgh rolled with a rookie Roethlisberger and the rest is history.

    “I’m a little superstitious,” O’Donnell said. “Everyone know what number I wore [No. 14]…If I could write a storyline saying I played in the NFL for 14 years, with, knock on wood, no really major surgeries…I didn’t want to take the chance going back one more year.”
    O’Donnell added that he could’ve gone to Minnesota to play another two seasons for the Vikings but preferred instead to spend more time with his family.

    During his time with the Steelers in the 1990s, O’Donnell posted an impressive 39-22 record as a starter, highlighted by guiding Pittsburgh to four playoff berths and Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys.

    What if O’Donnell would have taken the job?

    Despite how late in his career the second Steelers stint opportunity arrived, O’Donnell still had something in the tank. In the Titans’ final game of 2003, he made his final NFL start and completed 18-of-27 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-13 victory, which improved Tennessee’s record to 12-4 at the time.

    The initial plan for Roethlisberger was for him to sit for most of his rookie year and maybe even his second while he adjusted to the pro game. Instead, he was thrust into duty when Tommy Maddox was injured.

    Super Bowl for the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger

    Although he took his lumps as an NFL freshman, Roethlisberger wound up helping the Steelers to a 15-1 record in his maiden pro season and a Super Bowl XL triumph over the Seattle Seahawks the next year.

    Would things have been different if O’Donnell were under center? It’s one of the most fascinating and underrated “what if?” scenarios in recent NFL history.

    Meanwhile, how’s this for full circle: Roethlisberger is likely to return for 2021 in what should be his final season, despite a 48-37 loss to Cleveland on super wild-card weekend.

    https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/artic...12680_33875168
    Steelers Mock Draft: trade with Philadelphia 1(24) for 2(37) and 3(69)
    2(37) Creed Humphrey C Oklahoma
    2(55) Javonte Williams RB N Carolina
    3(69) James Hudson OT Cincinnati
    3(87) Tommy Tremble TE N Dame
    4a. Shaka Toney OLB Penn St
    4(comp) Kary Vincent Jr. CB LSU
    6a. Austin Watkins WR UAB
    6(comp) Tuf Borland ILB Ohio St
    7a. Royce Newman OG Ole Miss
    7b. Lorenzo Neal DT Purdue

  2. #2
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    Nobody wants to play with a rookie, not even the coach I guess...

  3. #3
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    In my opinion O'Donnell had we kept him was good enough to take us to another super bowl. I'm glad he didn't come back to start over a rookie Roethlisberger, but I do wish we kept him over Stewart.

  4. #4
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    I don’t know if I hate Neil O’Donnell more or about the same as I do Rashard Mendenhall but I do know that they will always be my 2 least favorite Steelers players of all time.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Man of Steel View Post
    I don’t know if I hate Neil O’Donnell more or about the same as I do Rashard Mendenhall but I do know that they will always be my 2 least favorite Steelers players of all time.
    After Mr, Rooney let him go, the Steeler org did not defend him even though it's admitted that receiver ( Andre Hastings ) ran the wrong way in the Super Bowl, causing the interception. Hey, we had a dynasty level Cowboy team on the ropes in the super bowl late in the 4th quarter. Looking at the stats, they didn't do much.

    Greg Lloyd had a mean hit on Emmitt Smith early who was shut down. Smith had just 49 yard on the ground. Yancy Thigpin beat Deion Sanders for a score in the end zone. Aikman had less that 200 net passing. We could have won this game, if not for that late " mistake " in the 4th quarter.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Buchsbaum View Post
    After Mr, Rooney let him go, the Steeler org did not defend him even though it's admitted that receiver ( Andre Hastings ) ran the wrong way in the Super Bowl, causing the interception. Hey, we had a dynasty level Cowboy team on the ropes in the super bowl late in the 4th quarter. Looking at the stats, they didn't do much.

    Greg Lloyd had a mean hit on Emmitt Smith early who was shut down. Smith had just 49 yard on the ground. Yancy Thigpin beat Deion Sanders for a score in the end zone. Aikman had less that 200 net passing. We could have won this game, if not for that late " mistake " in the 4th quarter.
    O’Donnell only threw 7 picks that entire 1995 regular season but come playoff time he threw 6 picks in 3 games including 3 in the Super Bowl vs Dallas. The lifetime hate has been well-earned.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Man of Steel View Post
    O’Donnell only threw 7 picks that entire 1995 regular season but come playoff time he threw 6 picks in 3 games including 3 in the Super Bowl vs Dallas. The lifetime hate has been well-earned.
    I understand, but we were playing Dallas in the Super Bowl, and he got us there with his arm. That should count for something. Few outside of Steeler fans thought the Steelers would win the game. He was actually maturing into a capable passer. Like I said it was Hastings who ran the wrong way. For some reason he skates and O'Donnell pays the price. The N.Y. Jets offered him a 25 million dollar contact ( a huge sum back then ), and he was gonzo.. Rooney didn't keep him. He was cheap back then. Welcome to the Kordell Stewart era, which was more frustrating.

    If someone were to ask me who's the 3rd best Steeler QB of all time, its probably O'Donnell. IMO, he was better than Malone_Brister_Stoudt_Stewart_ Maddox_ Etc..

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Man of Steel View Post
    O’Donnell only threw 7 picks that entire 1995 regular season but come playoff time he threw 6 picks in 3 games including 3 in the Super Bowl vs Dallas. The lifetime hate has been well-earned.

    He was such a Pu$$y.

    he threw that INT throwing the ball early enough so he could curl up and not take a huge hit from the cowboy player coming free on a blitz.

    compare that to stan humphries the year before waiting long enough to get a long ball off for tony martin.
    chad brown almost took his head off but he stood in there long enough and took it

  9. #9
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    I did a hard night /morning of drinking before that SB game . I woke up and had missed the 1Q . I felt so awful and really don`t remember much . Missed the SB party at work etc. One day I will re - watch that game .

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichD View Post
    I did a hard night /morning of drinking before that SB game . I woke up and had missed the 1Q . I felt so awful and really don`t remember much . Missed the SB party at work etc. One day I will re - watch that game .
    I watched it on the Big Island with a bunch of friends.

    Neil "O'Darnit I've thrown it to the other team again" O'Donnell drove me to drink more than I usually do.
    Steelers Mock Draft: trade with Philadelphia 1(24) for 2(37) and 3(69)
    2(37) Creed Humphrey C Oklahoma
    2(55) Javonte Williams RB N Carolina
    3(69) James Hudson OT Cincinnati
    3(87) Tommy Tremble TE N Dame
    4a. Shaka Toney OLB Penn St
    4(comp) Kary Vincent Jr. CB LSU
    6a. Austin Watkins WR UAB
    6(comp) Tuf Borland ILB Ohio St
    7a. Royce Newman OG Ole Miss
    7b. Lorenzo Neal DT Purdue

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