|Ben Roethlisberger (left), Philip Rivers (center) and Eli Manning were the class of the 2004 NFL Draft.|
Eli Manning (No. 1), Philip Rivers (No. 4) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) were the first quarterbacks selected in the 2004 NFL Draft, and all three have become top-flight NFL players. But if you had to pick only one to lead your team, who would it be?
We asked our experts that question, and they came up with a different order than did NFL players, who ranked Rivers (yet to be announced but inside the top 40) higher than Roethlisberger (41st) in NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2011" and left Manning completely off the list.
Roethlisberger's résumé can't be touchedBen Roethlisberger would be my pick. He's a two-time Super Bowl champion and has proven to be a clutch player in critical situations.
Although his game isn't refined or polished from a skill standpoint, Roethlisberger repeatedly finds ways to terrorize opponents with his improvisational skills. Whether it's shrugging off rushers or buying extra time with his underrated athleticism, Roethlisberger's ability to create big gains out of broken plays makes him one of the more difficult quarterbacks to defend. Throw in the fact that he has won over 70 percent of his regular-season starts and owns a 10-3 playoff record, and it's hard to make a case against Roethlisberger being the best of the bunch.
I'll take Big Ben any timeI'd rather have Ben Roethlisberger as my quarterback, because he has a broader range of skills than the others and the most Super Bowl rings. His ability to make dynamic plays with his passing arm and with his feet (and usually both) sets him apart not only from Rivers and Manning, but from most every quarterback in the league. And few quarterbacks have his uncanny knack for extending plays and finding a way to make something good happen when all seems lost.
Steeler's strength, streetball mentality make him bestIt's Roethlisberger. He's not a better talent than Rivers, or even more productive. What he brings that Rivers doesn't, and Manning surely doesn't, is the ability to make that John Elway and Roger Staubach-esque streetball play.
Country strong like Steve McNair was, Roethlisberger is so hard to bring down, unlike Rivers and Manning, that he provides the Steelers' offense with more opportunities to make big plays downfield. In that vein, an underrated part of Roethlisberger's game is his ability to make plays with his feet. He's a little more nimble than you'd think.
Manning, Rivers need to prove themselvesManning should be in the top 100 in my opinion, but if I have to pick a quarterback from these three, I'll take Ben Roethlisberger. He has been to three Super Bowls, he plays big in big games and he's a winner. I love the quarterback class of 2004, which also includes Houston's Matt Schaub (a third-round pick), but until one does what Roethlisberger has done, it's hard not to take him.
Roethlisberger cashes in during crunch timeAs productive and as good as Rivers might be, I'll take Ben Roethlisberger all day. Big Ben is a proven winner and, in my opinion, is one of the most clutch players in the NFL. He might not ever put up the stats that Rivers has, but when he's headed into the final quarter -- even if he's 9-of-20 passing -- his teammates and coaches know that he'll be money when it matters.