Roethlisberger the model for Cam Newton

Throughout the draft process, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton drew frequent comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.

It’s understandable since both have good size, running ability and strong arms. But the draft gurus weren’t the only ones comparing Newton to Roethlisberger.

Even before they drafted Newton, the Panthers were doing it. While the Panthers believe Newton has the ability to someday carry a team on his own, they’re looking ahead to his rookie year and hoping for something like what Roethlisberger gave the Steelers in 2004.

In Roethlisberger’s rookie year, Pittsburgh had strong talent and didn’t ask the quarterback to do too much. In the 14 games (13 starts) Roethlisberger appeared in, the Steelers averaged a little over 21 passes a game. Roethlisberger threw for 2,621 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The Panthers gladly would take those kinds of numbers from Newton and they’d be thrilled if he came anywhere close to posting a 66.4 percent completion rate like Roethlisberger did as a rookie. Although Carolina is coming off a 2-14 season, the front office and coaching staff don’t view the Panthers as a typical 2-14 team and they believe Newton could be in a position to succeed right away without having to do everything.

There’s some sound logic in that. Carolina should have a good running game. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are one of the league’s top duos at running back. If right tackle Jeff Otah is healthy, the offensive line should be very good. The Panthers brought in Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey to add a pass-catching element to the tight end position. If the Panthers can get a No. 2 receiver to step up behind Steve Smith, this offense is in good shape.

Of course, that’s all assuming Newton can come in and take advantage of what’s around him. He doesn’t have to be an instant superstar. He just needs to make a few plays a game and let the rest of the offense do its thing. Sort of like what Roethlisberger did as a rookie.

By the way, did we mention the 2004 Steelers went 15-1?