Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Remember When: Members of the Steelers Family Recall Their First Impressions of the Kid from Miami of Ohio

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Remember When: Members of the Steelers Family Recall Their First Impressions of the Kid from Miami of Ohio

Article excerpt

Brett Keisel has followed Ben Roethlisberger's career as closely as anyone. The defensive end already had two years on the roster when the Steelers drafted their quarterback in 2004.

Keisel, who would become friends with Roethlisberger, recalled two first "wow" moments for him that opened his eyes to just what the Steelers had in their young quarterback.

The first came during a practice.

"I was just a couple years older than him, and I made a nice rush, and he just took off away from me," Keisel said. "I said, 'This big boy can run.' "

The other came in the fifth game of his rookie season -- his third start -- against Cleveland at home. The score was tied, 7-7, in the first quarter. The Steelers had second down on the Browns 6.

"The pocket got smashed," Keisel said, giving the play-by-play 10 years later. "And he did a couple whoop-de-doos and spins and tiptoes and then just gave everything he had to get into the end zone, and then he had to dive between two guys coming to smash him.

"When that happened, all of us were like, 'Wow!' "

There would be many more such moments over the next decade, and they hope more to come.

Said Keisel: "Running with this thing the way he did as a rookie and going 15-1, and the next year we go win the Super Bowl and then we go back and then we go back. I mean, it's all because we have that franchise quarterback."

It was Game 3 of 2004 and Tommy Maddox went down ...

Sticking with our theme of the day, looking over the first decade of the Steelers franchise quarterback as he begins his 11th season, the question arises: Is this what they expected when they drafted him with the 11th overall pick in 2004?

"I think it's been a pretty solid 10 years," Steelers president Art Rooney II said. "I mean, three Super Bowl appearances, two wins. ... I think most quarterbacks coming into the league would take that if you said that's going to be part of your first 10 years.

"Ben started and developed really quickly compared to what the old school used to be that it took a few years. Ben wound up starting his rookie year and really was pretty quick to being an effective quarterback."

The plan was not to start him as a rookie. General manager Kevin Colbert said they drafted him with the idea "we think he is going to be a franchise quarterback."

"But nobody felt he was going to have to play right away," Colbert said. "Of course, it all changes when Tommy Maddox gets hurt in the second game. So really, when he went in, he wasn't ready. He got a lot done just on pure talent and instincts more than NFL knowledge."

Maddox injured his right arm in Baltimore and Roethlisberger replaced him in that game, which would be their only loss that season. He started the third game and they went 13-0 with him as their starting quarterback. Bill Cowher rested him in the finale before the playoffs. …

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