NFL Any Era: Ben Roethlisberger

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
4:30
PM ET
John Randle and Ben Roethlisberger ESPN.com IllustrationHall of Famer John Randle would still love to sack Ben Roethlisberger. MATCHUP GALLERY

ESPN.com is unveiling its "Any Era" team this week which features 20 current players with the toughness to play in any period of NFL history. The team was assembled by votes from 20 Hall of Fame players (here's a full explanation of the project).

Coming in at No. 3 on the Any Era Team is Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. No surprise here. When you think toughness, the first current quarterback that comes to mind is Roethlisberger.

He just doesn't play with pain. It seems like he plays better in pain. It even hurts recounting his injuries. In 2005, he fractured his right thumb and tore cartilage in his right knee. In 2008, he separated his right shoulder. In 2010, he broke his nose and fractured a bone in his right foot. This year, he sprained his left foot, fractured his right thumb again and suffered a high ankle sprain.

Trying to knock him out of the game is as tough as knocking him to the ground. Roethlisberger has made a career by shrugging off pass-rushers to extend the play and deliver a strike downfield. "Big Ben reminds me of Roman Gabriel, the old Rams quarterback," ESPN's John Clayton wrote. "Big, strong, fairly mobile."

Here are explanations from three Hall of Fame players on why Roethlisberger made the cut:
WARREN MOON: "If Ben Roethlisberger had to play in the era when they went both ways, he could do it. He is a big, classic style of football player. I like his toughness. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league. Maybe not the most talented, but the toughest of all of them."

FLOYD LITTLE: "He performs in spite of the hurts and pains and always wants to be in the huddle regardless of his pain. That's the type of players we were -- we lined up whenever the opportunity presented itself, and he really could play in our era. He goes into the locker room, gets taped up, comes back and gets the team a win."

DWIGHT STEPHENSON: "Love him or hate him, Big Ben is one of the toughest, gutsiest players in all of the NFL. Last year he breaks his nose and it is sitting under his left eye socket. The trainer bends it back straight, throws some tape on it, he plays a couple of plays with a mask on, doesn't like the mask, rips it off and goes back in and plays."
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Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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