NFL PLAYOFFS - STEELERS AT PATRIOTS ; Roethlisberger Hoping to Play Up to Brady's "Gold Standard"

By Graves, Will | Charleston Gazette Mail, January 20, 2017 | Go to article overview

NFL PLAYOFFS - STEELERS AT PATRIOTS ; Roethlisberger Hoping to Play Up to Brady's "Gold Standard"


Graves, Will, Charleston Gazette Mail


PITTSBURGH - Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible. Their brief exchange before Brady and the New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in October provided a snapshot into a rivalry that never was. They bro-hugged. They lamented the left knee injury that forced Roethlisberger out the lineup on that warm late fall afternoon.

And then Roethlisberger made an uncharacteristic request: a signed Brady jersey to hang on the wall in Roethlisberger's home office next to Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

"I consider him one, if not the best of all-time," Roethlisberger said.

A group Roethlisberger does not include himself in.

Not even with as many championships as Brady's longtime friend and occasional foil Peyton Manning (two). Not even with a spot in the top 10 in just about every major statistical category out there on Roethlisberger's still growing resume. Not even with a bust in Canton one day alongside Brady and the rest of the guys whose jerseys adorn the walls of his home almost assured regardless of what happens in Sunday's AFC title game.

The reason is simple: rings. Brady has four, including two he earned while carving a path through the playoffs that included victories in Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2004. Roethlisberger has two, neither of which required Roethlisberger or the Steelers to take out Brady along the way.

It's why Roethlisberger just shakes his head when asked if he's part of the "gold standard label that he so eagerly attaches to Brady.

"Not as [his] level, Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, with all the Super Bowls he has.

This weekend provides Roethlisberger his best - and maybe his last - chance to do to Brady what Brady has done to so many others over the last 16 years. Even if the last thing Roethlisberger wants to do is get pulled into the "star quarterback vs. star quarterback narrative that fueled so many showdowns between Brady and Manning through the years.

"It's obviously bigger than the two of us, Roethlisberger said. "I know he is used to it, with the Peyton Manning and Tom thing. This is two football teams that have won championships. Us going against each other is more than just one man. We aren't playing tennis. We are going out there to play a football game with 11 guys at a time.

Maybe, but the outcome will be attached to Roethlisberger's legacy more than any other player. The list of opposing quarterbacks Roethlisberger has beaten with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line doesn't exactly roll right off the tongue: Jake Plummer, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco. Brady and the Patriots they are not.

The two first met in the postseason at frigid Heinz Field in the 2004 AFC championship, Roethlisberger the rookie came in a perfect 14-0 as a starter against Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions. …

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