With the 11th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger from Miami (Ohio). Instantly I turned to my father and said, “Who?” The Steelers hadn’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1980 when they drafted Mark Malone, before that the last quarterback taken in the first round for the Steelers was Terry Bradshaw. Ten years later Roethlisberger remains one of the best draft picks in recent history.
The 2004 draft, as we all remember, was filled with quarterbacks with the likes of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger all going in the first round. Apparently, Ben didn’t expect to go to the Steelers at all. After Manning was drafted to San Diego and Rivers to New York, Roethlisberger sure though that the Browns, who picked 6th, would pick up the Ohio-native since when can you remember the Browns not needing a quarterback? True to Cleveland form, the Browns went with TE Kellen Winslow Jr. and the Steelers had the opportunity to draft their next franchise quarterback since Terry Bradshaw.
In Ben’s rookie season we were all still sold on Tommy “Tommy Gun” Maddox being “the guy” until he went down in a Week 2 loss in Baltimore. Enter Ben Roethlisberger. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were all still trying to spell his name correctly but before long he would be known as Big Ben. I had purchased tickets for me and my father to go see the Steelers in Miami for our very first Steelers game together. Unfortunately, hurricane season was in full force in Florida and Hurricane Jeanne planned to interrupt my special father/daughter Steeler game moment. Fortunately for us, the game was only postponed to Sunday evening and we were present when Ben Roethlisberger took the field for the first time as the Steelers starting quarterback. He would go undefeated for the remainder of that season as that Week 2 loss to Baltimore would remain the Steelers only loss of the season on their way to a 15-1 record and a regrettably soul-crushing defeat in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots.
Roethlisberger has certainly had his ups and downs in his career. After becoming (and still remains) the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl he’s gone through some PR nightmares. There was a time where everyone in Pittsburgh “knew a guy” that had a Roethlisberger story that detailed something involving a night out at a bar or club and Ben acting like a major douchebag. He’s gone through a motorcycle crash and two sexual assault allegations to ultimately rehab his image into that of a family man who is known for his charity work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and his work in providing police dogs to police departments all over the country.
Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the greatest draft picks in Steelers’ team history. While he’s known for having an epically bad performance in Super Bowl XL, his contributions during that season and the playoffs certainly warrant saying he played a big part in bringing Steeler Nation the long awaited “One for the thumb” he also led one of the greatest game-winning Super Bowl drives in history to secure the 6th Lombardi trophy for the Steelers. While I’m sure he probably doesn’t have another 10 years in him I certainly hope that he gets the chance to return to the big stage and see if he can’t get closer to the Terry Bradshaw level of Super Bowl victories before his career is complete.