Well Ben, you may not think you’re here for our entertainment, but you are. And you’re doing a damn fine job of it, too.
The last two years have been statistical bests for Roethlisberger. Though he missed the first four games of the 2010/11 season, he continued to show that he’s one of the leagues elit QB’s, and no matter how hard the NFL tries, and no matter how many times he screws up, he’s not going anywhere. Depending on how you define entertainment, be it a fun distraction or absolute horror, Steelers fans have been “entertained” regularly by our boy Ben. Since being drafted in 2004 Big Ben has crashed a motorcycle, been accused of sexual assault twice, led the Steelers to the AFC Campionship game as a rookie going 15-1, led them to a SB victory the very next year, led the most exciting game winning last minute drive of a SB ever, etc. etc. Just the way he plays the game is exciting. Running around in the pocket, holding on to the ball, wiggling out of sacks…the guy is a television dream and nightmare all rolled in to one.
And I love him for it.
He lives(ed?) his life with the same reckless abandon he plays with on the field. He’s all heart, all clutch, and a total winner. Yes, his performance in Super Bowl XLV was less than impressive. Just ask all those kids in third world countries wearing tee shirts that read “Stairway to 7,” “7 times a lady,” “Super 7,” “7 Steps to Heaven,” or whatever else advertising people came up with. I would argue that many of the mistakes were not Ben’s fault in the Super Bowl, but I don’t really think it matters. Ben has shown us that he is clutch. He has shown us that he can win the big game, so as far as I am concerned, he gets a pass.
You want a choke artist? Just look at Peyton Manning. He’s great with the camera. The NFL loves him. He throws a mean ball…and he’s a choke artist. But that’s another article…
So what about 2011/12?
Looking back over the last two years, we saw the development of a nasty pass attack in Big Ben and his WR core. In 2009, Big Ben threw for 4,328 yards and 26 touchdowns vs. 12 interceptions. His completion percentage was 66.6% (an omen?). 2009 was the first time in Steelers history they had a QB throw for over 4k yds while simultaneously having two WRs over 1,000 yds (Hines/Holmes), and a RB over 1,000 yds (Mendy). If that’s not a scary offense to play against, I don’t know what is.
In just 12 games in 2010, Ben threw for 3,200 yds, 17 TDs and only 5 interceptions. after coming in off the streets cold in week 6 of last season (four week suspension – bye week), it was clear that Ben and his young WRs were not gelling immediately. It took time for Big Ben to settle down and throw passes on target. Even with a tough readjustment period, Ben was savvy enough to take care of the ball and only turn it over 5 times. Add to that the pressure of feeling like he needed to win back all of Steeler Nation, and his performance was no small achievement. Lest we forget, just a few months before Ben walked on the field for SB XLV in Dallas, everyone involved in the NFL was casting him out as a villain.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Big Ben is clutch, but he is still a human being, and no human being can climb out of a hole the size Roethlisberger dug for himself in just one season. We could see his play deteriorate in the last two games of the playoffs. The fact the Steelers were playing when 30 other teams were sitting at home watching is a testament to how great he really is. With the weight of the entire Steeler Nation on his back, Ben still carried us to the Super Bowl. Imagine what he’ll do when he’s not thinking about rebuilding his reputation and all that’s on his mind is winning football games.
No one wants to play the Steelers.
2011/12 will be a big year for Big Ben. With Ben’s wide outs coming back in to a system most of them only started learning a year or two ago for another year, we can expect better chemistry sooner. Ben having to sit out for four weeks was detrimental to the offense’s chemistry in 2010, and he still managed big time numbers over 12 games.
Mike Wallace is developing as more than just a one trick pony, and if he can learn how to run after he catches the ball in the middle of the field, he will be (already is?) one of the most dangerous wide outs in the league.
Hines Ward is old faithful. He didn’t have the best statistical season of his career, but he is an emotional leader, and he’s a go to wide out when the drive is on the line. His career is far from over, and after he takes down DWTS, he’ll be hungry to get back to the SB in 2012.
Emmanuel Sanders is young and dangerous. He had some rookie moments this year running wrong routs and dropping some passes, but that has as much to do with his development alongside Big Ben as it does his own personal development. Its about chemistry, and Big Ben and Manny have shown that they like each other. He’s poised to make some noise out there and take on a bigger role as the #3 WR next season.
Unless Antonio Brown has something to say about it. This dude is fast, cocky and fearless. Probably the three most important traits to have in a WR. He showed that he’s down like a clown to be the go-to guy when he caught that 54 yd bomb in the Championship game against the Ravens last year. Antonio has some room to improve with his knowledge of the playbook and assignments, but I fully expect him to be catching important passes from Ben in the 2011 season.
Limas Sweed – I’m not really sure there is much to say here. For a couple of years, it looked like Limas was poised to become the next big threat for the Steelers. After a total meltdown and then a season ending injury, Limas has been all but forgotten as a member of the Steelers WR core. All that said, I think there is a good chance we will see him make one last push this season. The Steelers probably want to show that Limas wasn’t a total bust, and I think Limas probably wants to show the same thing. I remember hearing all about him before his injury and how he felt like he was ready to step up and take Santonio’s place in 2010. We’ll see if that’s true in 2011.
With such a young and exciting core of WRs at his fingertips, I fully expect Ben to bounce back after last years SB loss and have another big year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Ben play better than we’ve ever seen before.
What about the O-line?
Depending on how the draft goes, the O-line may actually be in pretty good shape next year, which will certainly make Ben’s job easier. Hopefully Flo comes back, and with Pouncey in the middle, and some starters returning to fill in the gaps, we might just have an O-line worth not talking about. With new definitions on what constitutes the end of the play, our O-line will need to be even better at keeping the opponents’ hands off of Ben so he can have the freedom to scramble around and throw on the run the way he likes.
What if Ben “entertains” us this Summer?
Yeah, well lets just hope that doesn’t happen. He seems to have made a sincere adjustment to his lifestyle, and has gotten back in touch with his Christian roots. Hopefully that’s enough to keep him out of trouble, and us bored. That is, until the season starts. Boredom good. Entertainment bad. At least when it comes to off season Big Ben.
Here’s to a Spring and Summer full of sparkling wine and Scrabble.