No. 3: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Updated: January 27, 2012, 4:39 PM ET
ESPN.com

John Randle and Ben Roethlisberger ESPN.com IllustrationHall of Famer John Randle would still love to sack Ben Roethlisberger. MATCHUP GALLERY

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ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine sought a list of the 20 current players who a 20-member Pro Football Hall of Fame panel and ESPN's John Clayton believe could excel in any era of the NFL.

Or, to put a finer point on it -- when Mike Ditka looks at today's player, whom does he want lining up next to him ... or across from him?

Which of today's players did our group of Hall of Famers deem really old school?

The playing days for our 20-member Hall of Fame panel spanned the '60s (Jim Brown) to the turn of the century (John Randle).

We presented four players a day, culminating with our top four Friday.

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#NFLANYERA TOP 20

Honorable mention and No. 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8
7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | NFL Blog Network reaction


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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.



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JOHN RANDLE: Big Ben plays the game the way I was taught to play it. He reminds me of the old Steelers -- that Bradshaw, Lambert, Ham kind of player. If he gets hurt, he leaves, and comes right back. He's the type of guy I'd want as a QB. He's like something from a movie, or like those Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons: He gets smashed and bam -- he comes right back.


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JAMES LOFTON: Ben Roethlisberger is playing a position where he's not supposed to get hit, but he gets hit and he always gets up and keeps playing. I've done a couple of his games and seen him in the pregame and said, "He's not going to make it through the game." But he plays, and he's still defenseless on the field because he can't really get away from defenders, but he still hangs in there and does his job and does it really well.


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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.


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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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Roethlisberger knows what it means to play with pain after breaking his thumb, tearing cartilage in his knee, separating his shoulder and fracturing a bone in his foot. But his toughest moment came when Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke his nose on Dec. 5, 2010. He stayed in the game and threw the winning touchdown pass to Isaac Redman in a 13-10 Steelers win.

It was my toughest injury because it happened so early in the game and it affects your breathing. So, every breath, every time you run, every time you do something, not only is the pain there but you feel the blood draining in your throat. You feel the blood coming out. There's no air going through there. That one sticks out as much as any of them.

I knew that it hurt a lot and when the blood starting running down my face right away, I kind of assumed [it was broken], but I didn't know how bad it was until later.

I broke my foot and you deal with that. I broke my thumb. But because you have to breathe and there's constantly blood coming down your throat and down your face ... it's like a really, really bad runny nose.

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His mobility outside the pocket has allowed him to keep plays alive, and his ability to make fourth-quarter drives ranks among the all-time greats. Big Ben reminds me of Roman Gabriel, the old Rams quarterback. Big, strong, fairly mobile.

HALL OF FAME CHANCES: Another Super Bowl ring or two could make him a Hall of Famer.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN






#NFLANYERA TOP 20

Honorable mention and No. 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8
7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | MORE: Twitter | Facebook | NFL Blog Network
Additional reporting by ESPN The Magazine's Morty Ain, Louise Cornetta, Amy Parlapiano and Alyssa Roenigk.