Ben Roethlisberger is the oldest quarterback in our “Be The GM” contest, which speaks in part to how we expect him to remain one of the most valuable commodities into his mid thirties, but also about how the talent of the Pittsburgh Steelers has aged. Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley haven’t been the same for several seasons, leaving Lawrence Timmons as the most valuable younger player on defense.
For the Baltimore Ravens, we know the durable, multi-dimensional 26-year-old Ray Rice is one of the three or four best running backs in the NFL, while Joe Flacco has proven himself capable of winning in January and now February, but is on the second or third tier of quarterbacks.
The Steelers and Ravens have had the NFL's best rivalry over the past half dozen years and though many of the biggest contributors to that have moved on or retired (Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, Ed Reed, James Harrison), it is fitting for the teams to be paired here.
Roethlisberger has consistently been one of the NFL’s most accurate and efficient quarterbacks while also having the ability to scramble and keep broken plays alive in a way that is not in the skill-set of the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Roethlisberger clearly modeled his game after John Elway and you see that in his improvisational style. He also forced talent evaluators to increase the value they place on that aspect of the game and he is in many ways the link between Elway and Cam Newton, as well as another No. 7 in Colin Kaepernick.
Roethlisberger has an 87-39 career record and ranks seventh among active quarterbacks in career passer rating. Roethlisberger has completed 60 percent or more of his passes in every season since 2007 except for 2008 and he has also done an excellent job in reducing his interception rate from the first few seasons of his career.
The two issues with Roethlisberger has been injuries due to the way he plays the game, leaving himself open to so many hits, as well as off the field issues. Roethlisberger has missed a few games in each of the past few seasons and has played well below 100 percent. The Steelers have gone to great lengths in upgrading their offensive line to protect Roethlisberger in recent seasons by spending first round picks on Maurkice Pouncey at center and David DeCastro at guard, along with second round picks on Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert as their tackles.
Off the field, Roethlisberger has been badly injured in a motorcycle accident and accused of rape on two occasions that led to a suspension of four games in 2010 by the NFL. The accusations will deservedly remain a permanent stain that remains with him, but he is now married with a child and seems to be genuinely changed.
Rice was a second round pick by the Ravens in 2008 out of Rutgers and quickly supplanted Willis McGahee as the featured back. Rice is a high volume threat and led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage in 2011 while finishing second and third in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Rice’s usage dropped last season with 257 rushing attempts and 43 receptions, but he still had 1,621 total yards from scrimmage. Rice’s 4th and 29 play against the Chargers will live in infamy, as will the way he was able to grind out 131 yards on 30 carries at Denver in the Divisional Round.
Rice is incredibly elusive when he gets into space and he has also proven to be highly durable. The presence of Bernard Pierce taking some carries from Rice figures to extend his career and allow him to perform at the highest level possible when it truly matters.