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Cover One: ‘Debate Of The Greats’ at Quarterback for Steelers

Cover One
Some key things that Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger have in common is that both have multiple super bowl rings, both have been hated by Pittsburgh Steelers fans at one point or another for what they have said, done, or been accused of and both have played well under pressure. Playing in different eras sometimes makes it hard to compare players, but it is always fun to do.  In this ‘Debate of the Greats’, I look at the two Steelers quarterbacks.

When it comes to Bradshaw, many will say he is the best because he had a career playoff record of 14-5 with 30 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Bradshaw has been considered – according to many past great players and fans – one of the top ten greatest playoff quarterbacks of all time. Bradshaw was indeed blessed with great defenses year after year, not to mention playing with two Hall of Fame wide receivers in Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.  Add Hall of Fame running back/fullback Franco Harris to that mix as well.

Bradshaw also played in a era in which it was okay to be a game manger and not have to throw the football 25-40 times per game. Defensive backs were allowed to pull and tuck at receivers 25-30 yards down the field and defenses showed no mercy when it came to laying big hits on the quarterback. Bradshaw inherited a team that was not very good as they missed the playoffs in Bradshaw’s first two seasons. In clutch situations, Bradshaw was nothing short of excellent with 19 fourth quarter comebacks and 27 game winning drives.

Roethlisberger has two championship rings and at 33 years of age he is in position to make a Super Bowl run for a couple more seasons. Roethlisberger’s stats outshine those of Bradshaw – with 39,057 yards, 251 touchdowns and a 93.9 passer rating – compared to Bradshaw’s 27,989 yards, 212 touchdowns and a 70.9 passer rating.

Roethlisberger has shown a rare ability to play well through pain over and over again. Roethlisberger inherited a team that already had an elite defense, strong running game and good receivers in Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. In a now quarterback-driven league in which everything a quarterback does is closely watched, Roethlisberger has excelled.

In Bradshaw’s day players played together much longer and coaches stayed with one team much longer. Roethlisberger has improved with many new players over the years. Last season Roethlisberger was tied for first in the league in passing yards while playing with unproven young receivers such as Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown (six games). Many quarterbacks of yesteryear and today could not do that.

With an 11-5 playoff record to go along with 32 touchdowns and only nine interceptions, Roethlisberger needs three more wins to tie Bradshaw and gain even more credibility as the best Steelers quarterback of all time.  When it comes to performing well in “crunch time”, Roethlisberger has 25 fourth quarter comebacks and 35 game-winning drives.

Bradshaw is a Hall of Famer and Roethlisberger is a a certain future Hall of Fame inductee. Both have impressive qualities, no doubt, and both were great draft picks for the Steelers. Both quarterbacks came to the Steelers organization at a time in which the Steelers had question marks about the direction of the team. Both quarterbacks have been the face of the franchise for a decade in their respected time.

In my opinion, Roethlisberger is the better quarterback. Roethlisberger is more physically gifted and deals with more pressure than Bradshaw ever did. Roethlisberger has broken many of Bradshaw’s records and will likely pass his predecessor in playoff victories.

As this debate continues, who do you think was the better quarterback?



  1. DaveB.

    April 15, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    You’re comparing two entirely different era’s . Football in the 1970’s versus football today is as different as night and day . Both quarterbacks were and are excellent at what they did and yes Roethlisberger for all his haters, will be in Canton one day with Bradshaw . Bradshaw had huge advantages with no free agency or salary cap , plus two hall of fame receivers and a hall of fame running back lined up behind him . Roethlisberger on the other hand is playing in a league where the running back has become obsolete and you can literally throw the ball on every offensive down . With that being said , todays quarterbacks are going to have monster passing yardage that will dwarf players from Bradshaws era . Its a different time and a different league . At the end of the day , both are excellent and you cant go wrong with either one . The only thing I will say is at the end of Bens career , people will look at the championships when comparing him to Bradshaw . Right now , Terry is comfortably ahead .

  2. DrGeorge

    April 16, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    You’re right as usual, DaveB. Comparisons across eras are meaningless: different rules, training, length of season, even different footballs. Raw stats are misleading. When it comes to winning championships and red zone efficiency, however, Bradshaw was better. In his Super Bowl victories, Bradshaw set records and had a QB rating of over 100 in all four games; Ben R. was out-played by the opposing QB in both of his Super Bowl wins, with ratings below 100, and has the lowest passer rating in SB history (22.6 in SB 40). But it is virtually impossible to compare Bradshaw and Ben R. without taking note of Bradshaw’s considerably better supporting cast. Football is, after all, a team game.

    Let us note that neither of them was\is the best QB of his era. Most analysts would take Staubach over Bradshaw during the 1970s; most today would pick Brady or Rodgers over Ben R. But in his time, Bradshaw was considered one of the elite QBS; Ben. R. is capable, but is not usually named among the elite.

    Finally, a few years back, before the Steelers renegotiated Ben R’s contract, there was open speculation in the media about Ben being traded for value to another team. Details of possible deals were reported in the media daily, most of them from “reliable sources.” But nothing came of those discussions. No other team wanted Ben R. at the existing contract price. Either the Steelers paid too much for him, or Ben R. isn’t as talented as some fans think he is. Here again, the edge would seem to go to Bradshaw.

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