Revisiting Ben Roethlisberger HOF debate

June, 21, 2011
6/21/11
1:25
PM ET
Ben RoethlisbergerMatthew Stockman/Getty ImagesA third Super Bowl title would ensure Ben Roethlisberger's place in Canton.
In February we explained that three Super Bowls victories for starting quarterbacks leads to automatic enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.

The only quarterbacks in that class are Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady. Three are in Canton and one -- Brady -- will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years after he retires.

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly joined that elite group but came up one scoring drive short in Super Bowl XLV, losing 31-25 to the Green Bay Packers. Now he's stuck at two rings.

So what does this mean for Roethlisberger's Hall of Fame chances? It means he still has some winning to do.

And "winning" is the key word for Roethlisberger, because that will be the biggest part of his NFL legacy. Despite playing quarterback, Roethlisberger will never be a numbers guy. He plays for a defensive-oriented team in Pittsburgh, which wants to be efficient on offense. Roethlisberger has thrown for 4,000 yards just once in seven seasons.

Roethlisberger's career numbers will not match other top quarterbacks of his era such as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Those three have thrown anywhere from 13,000 to 32,000 yards more than Roethlisberger, and it will be impossible for Roethlisberger to catch up.

Roethlisberger will have to take the Bradshaw and Aikman route to Canton. Neither had eye-popping numbers, but they were winners and extremely effective in big games.

Roethlisberger's 10-3 record in the postseason speaks volumes. His .769 winning percentage in the playoffs surpasses both Brady (.737) and Manning (.473). Roethlisberger also compares favorably with Hall of Fame inductees of the past 10 years in key areas such as passer rating (92.5), completion percentage (63.1) and yards per attempt (8.0).

Some thoughts on this chart:

  • Because of his unconventional, backyard style, Roethlisberger does not get nearly enough credit for his accuracy. But Roethlisberger is very efficient and currently has a better completion percentage than five of the six Hall of Famers we listed.
  • Roethlisberger also faces the stigma of being perceived as a "game manager," particularly early in his career. But his yard per attempt debunk that myth. Roethlisberger isn't afraid to take chances and throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL. His 8.0 yards per attempt is higher than Hall of Famers Dan Marino (7.3) and Warren Moon (7.2), for example, and both were renown gunslingers. Roethlisberger also averaged 8.2 yards per attempt or more in five of his seven seasons.
  • Longevity is key. Each Hall of Fame quarterback listed played at least 11 seasons in the NFL, and several played 16 or more seasons. Roethlisberger, who has seven years of experience, still has a long way to go.
  • Compared with current elite quarterbacks, Roethlisberger has a higher career passer rating (92.5) than Brees (91.7) but not Brady (95.2) or Manning (94.9).

Roethlisberger, 29, is in the prime of his career. Barring injury, there is nothing to suggest he cannot play at a high level for the next 3-5 years.

But these next several seasons will be crucial for Roethlisberger. If he retired today, Roethlisberger probably wouldn't get into the Hall of Fame, because he doesn't have the gaudy numbers or the longevity.

But with each deep run through the postseason, Roethlisberger gets one step closer to football immortality. If Roethlisberger is able to add a third championship along the way, his legend would be bronzed in Canton.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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