- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No quarterback in memory has hit the NFL like Ben Roethlisberger.

The 11th player and third quarterback taken in the 2004 draft behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, Roethlisberger became the starter in Week 4 and led Pittsburgh to 14 straight victories before losing the AFC Championship game. The next year, Roethlisberger won 13 of his 16 starts culminating in the Steelers’ first Super Bowl title in 26 years.

Sandwiches (“The Roethlisburger”) and babies were named for the 6-foot-5, 241-pound passer nicknamed Big Ben. He was an icon in the Steel City.

But last season was ugly. Roethlisberger, helmetless, crashed his motorcycle. His jaw was wired shut. Later came an appendectomy and a concussion. By season’s end, the Steelers were out of the playoffs, and their quarterback had thrown 23 interceptions and just 18 touchdown passes. His passer rating was 75.4 compared to 98.3 during his glorious first two seasons.

Roethlisberger declined to blame his physical problems for his poor play, saying he was too cocky after having so much success so soon.

“A lot of times, I got caught being a little too confident and knowing the offense too well and trying to force things a little too much,” said Roethlisberger, who won’t have that problem this season because the Steelers have changed coaches and coordinators. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned from it. And you know what? It’s going to make me better.”

Talking to Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Jim Kelly helped, too, as Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“[They said], ‘Isn’t it amazing that you have one bad year and everyone is down on you?’ ” Roethlisberger recalled. “They said, ‘Listen, you”re going to have more than one bad year. Don’t let it bother you. You had two great ones [and] one bad one — you”ll be fine. It feels good when people like that tell you that it’s going to be OK.”

Having eight of 10 starters from the Super Bowl still in the huddle with him won’t hurt his chances for a renaissance, either.

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