The Steel City's origins are well known. Manufacturing was once pivotal to the Pittsburgh economy and synonymous with their attitude. The collapse of their manufacturing industry and the accompanying Steel Crisis also coincided with the football team’s 26-year Super Bowl drought beginning in 1979.
Fiery, square-jawed disciplinarian Bill Cowher kickstarted the resurgence, but it wasn’t until the ‘Burgh met Roethlisberger in 2004 that the franchise acquired the centerpiece piece vital for their return to the pinnacle. Over the past nine seasons, Big Ben has proven to be the toughest 6'5, 240 pound block of steel ever chiseled in Pittsburgh.
Steel is forged in fire. Likewise, Big Ben’s body and reputation have persevered through hell and back. A pair of sexual assault accusations in 2010 tarnished his reputation more than any edge rusher could stain his No. 7 jersey. Quarterback is usually touted as football’s glamour position. But don’t tell that to Big Ben.
The Black and Gold's No. 7 is the Steel City’s John McClane.
McClane was the first modern action hero. He sweat, bled profusely, exhibited serious issues with authority and was defined by his scrappy, bloody, tattered clothing in contrast to the pretty boy Indiana Jones of past eras. Despite his humanity, he was also seemingly indestructible. Throughout the original Die Hard and four sequels, Bruce Willis’ flawed character has depicted the action icon that Roethlisberger has embodied in the National Football League for nine seasons.
Somehow, a quarterback with a propensity for strolling outside the pocket and holding the leather, while excessively surveying the field for open receivers, with no regard for the pass rush surrounding him, has become one of the great winners of his generation.
However, his body has paid an exorbitant price as the Steelers have transitioned away from a run-first unit into a no-huddle offense. Mo' passes, mo' problems.
The sack which put Big Ben on the shelf against the Kansas City Chiefs was the 332nd time he’d been dragged down in his NFL career. Since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, Iron Man Brett Favre was sacked an NFL-record 525 times. Favre was never sacked more than 40 times in a single season. Roethlisberger has been at the mercy of pass rushers 40-plus times in five different campaigns.
Second all-time is John Elway, the lithe dual-threat passer Roethlisberger idolized and shares a number with. Even Elway would cringe at these painful numbers, though.
Ben: 123 games, 332 sacks
Elway: 234 games, 516 sacks
Favre: 302 games, 525 sacks
Roethlisberger doesn’t evade pass rushers for the same reason McClane doesn’t dodge bullets. He’s the toughest S.O.B. under center and the epitome of a Steelers quarterback. He takes his lickin’ behind the line of scrimmage and keeps on tickin’. But everyone has their limits.
Linemen are notorious for mangled digits but Roethlisberger’s right thumb has been a recurring issue throughout his entire career. In 2005, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to their first Super Bowl title despite playing with a thumb injury so severe, it affected his grip, spiral and eventually required surgery.
In 2008, Roethlisberger sprained his shoulder and aggravated his sore thumb. He skipped a few practices, splashed on some Icy Hot and led the Steelers to their second Super Bowl parade in three seasons.
It may be a blessing in disguise that Roethlisberger took a breather against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football. Baltimore always seems to know just which bone to crunch.
Two years ago, nose tackle Haloti Ngata broke Roethlisberger’s nose on the Steelers’ first offensive series. Big Ben responded with 253 yards, one touchdown and a game-winning drive. The next day doctors said his nose bones resembled corn flakes.
Roethlisberger broke another bone on his right foot. The injury left him with intense pain in his foot and a noticeable limp. Roethlisberger merely strapped himself into a reinforced shoe and yippe ki yayed The Black And Gold to a berth in Super Bowl XLV.
After an SC sprain in Roethlisberger's right throwing shoulder suffered against Kansas City left his arm in a sling, Mike Tomlin remained hesitant to rule his steel quarterback out for Week 11. Only after doctors discovered a rare rib injury that threatened his life did Tomlin decide to give Leftwich the nod.
Can't blame him. Pittsburgh has been riding with the coldest fourth quarter quarterback of the past 50 years, Eli and Peyton included. Just when you think Roethlisberger’s down for the count, he rises from the canvas.
Live free, die hard. Nah… This time, ‘the Burgh and ‘Berger will take the L and live to fight another day.