There are three guys that will forever be linked from the 2004 National Football League Draft. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were each drafted in top 11 that year and they will forever be judged against one another. Between them, there are five Super Bowl appearances and four victories. Each has also remained with their original team since the beginning. But reality is apparently starting to set in.
Eli Manning has been nothing but professional as quarterback of the New York Giants. He took over in 2004 from future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and hasn’t missed a start since then. That of course will change Sunday. Manning has been benched in favor of Geno Smith as the Giants are 2-9 and going nowhere. I am of the opinion that Manning did not deserve this. He has struggled this year with a porous offensive line, an inconsistent running game and injuries to his top receivers. In short, what else could he have done?
Believe it or not, there were calls for Big Ben to be benched earlier this season. Ya, you heard that right. I saw tweets, Facebook posts and comments throughout the internet suggesting that Roethlisberger was washed up. Heck, even he questioned himself following the loss to Jacksonville. All of those comments look foolish now don’t they?
The interesting thing though is that most experts would have figured that what is happening to Manning would have happened to Roethlisberger first. The reasoning was simply because number seven has had his body beaten much more severely than has Manning. That’s a fair assessment too based on simple common sense but things are not working out that way.
Regardless of what happens with Manning the rest of the way I think he wants to keep playing and will likely do so elsewhere in 2018. The Giants owe him that much because I certainly can’t imagine them bringing him back after doing this to him. Which brings us back to Roethlisberger.
There is a very grim reality that none of us want to face yet we now it’s coming. There will come a day when Big Ben is no longer the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of you have no knowledge of anyone else as the QB in Pittsburgh so it won’t be an easy thing to get through. After seeing what has happened with Manning, I know I speak for all Steelers’ fans when I say that better not happen to Roethlisberger.
When you play for so long, give so much and add Lombardi Trophies to the front office, you deserve a certain level of treatment that other players may not receive. That doesn’t mean it’s fair, but life isn’t fair either and Manning is finding that out. When I look at Roethlisberger’s situation, I don’t see his career coming down to that. I see him retiring prior to the season ever beginning and to be clear, Manning isn’t as close to retirement as I think Big Ben is. But however things go down, I can’t see the Steelers doing to Roethlisberger what the Giants are doing to Eli.
Is it impossible? No, I just think the situations are incredibly different. None of us can predict the future and if the Steelers were 2-9 in 2018 would they sit a healthy Roethlisberger in order to play someone else? It’s a business so nothing is impossible but I would hope that the Steelers, whenever it happens, would let Roethlisberger go out on his terms. It’s something Eli Manning deserved and that’s been taken from him.
Photo courtesy: NY Daily News