first_imgAs I sat and watched the NFL playoffs the last two weekends, the games initiated a thought process for yours truly. Alex Smith versus Drew Brees, Eli Manning versus Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco versus T. J. Yates, Tom Brady versus Tim Tebow all were part of the top of the food chain of the NFL. There is a quarterback in Pittsburgh that is revered. His name is Ben Roethlisberger. He has from the beginning taken the media and the Pittsburgh fan base by storm. The management of the Pittsburgh Steelers has coddled and catered to Big Ben since his career was launched. As far as I am concerned, he has underperformed significantly. Take a look at the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. To say his tenure in San Francisco has been tenuous and volatile would be greatly understated. Smith has had seven offensive coordinators in seven seasons but has advanced to the NFC Championship game. Wow that is deep!  This “enamoration” with Roethlisberger began in 2004 when he was thrust into service as a rookie when Tommy Maddox was injured. After splitting their first two games, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to victory in all of the team’s 14 remaining regular season games, giving Pittsburgh a 15-1 record and making the Steelers the first AFC team ever to win 15 games. However, the Steelers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game which forever can be hailed as one of the Patriots famous “cheat sheet games.”The primary reason that I went back to the humble beginnings of Big Ben is because everyone thought it was such a big deal to have a QB who was not expected to play standing front and center on the NFL’s grandest stage. The media made such a huge deal of Ben winning 14 games, but as I looked around the league in 2011, I saw young quarterbacks like Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals and T.J. Yates of the Houston Texans thriving on the fly.  Ben’s rookie year accomplishments when viewed with hindsight do not seem as impressive as they did in 2004.I remember sitting in the press box in Baltimore the year prior to Roethlisberger gaining the starting position. David Steele, formerly of the Baltimore Sun looked over at me after Maddox had played a horrible game against the Ravens and said, “Tommy Maddox does not deserve an NFL paycheck.” That being said the position of quarterback for the Steelers more than likely would’ve been put into Big Ben’s hands eventually.  During that stretch for Maddox, the fanatics of the Steelers nation were guilty of such despicable acts as throwing bags of garbage onto his lawn. Judging by the way Roethlisberger has performed lately, injured or not, can’t you hear the diesel engines of the garbage trucks humming? Also the coaches of the Steelers may be receiving an extra “sewage surcharge” if they are not careful.It is time for Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, and Bruce Arians to cut loose or exit the outhouse.I have been one of the most vocal critics of the New England Patriots and their head coach Bill Belichick after his cheating methods were discovered and exposed. That being said, Belichick is one of the most innovative, intellectual and opportunistic coaches I’ve ever seen in my 27 years of covering the NFL. He always seems to pit the strength of his team against the weakness of the opponent. The Patriots were 31st in pass defense during the 2011 season yet during their recent win over the Denver Broncos, they only allowed Denver QB Tim Tebow to complete 9 of 26 passes for 136 yards and allowed the Broncos to score a measly 10 points. Was this really the 31st ranked pass defense of the NFL?  Yet the Steelers number one passing defense allowed the Broncos to torch them for 316 yards and 29 points. How can that be? The Broncos put their weakness up against the strength of the Steelers and won, convincingly.Will the Steelers be able to evolve just as other franchises are changing right before their eyes? Probably.  Are they in danger of falling by the wayside, possibly because they are married financially to a quarterback who is having an illicit affair on them behind their back? Maybe. Is Roethlisbeger divulging secrets to Steelers opponents or Las Vegas odds-makers for ill-gotten gain? Heck no. Is he intentionally throwing picks and fumbling the ball away? I think not. His love of self is the obvious negative. Big Ben may just be having secret liaisons at questionable locations in seedy hotel rooms only with, oh gosh, himself.(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at [email protected] Bruce is also the NFL/AFC North analyst on the ‘Odd-Couple Sports Show’ streaming live on Fox Sports radio.)last_img

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