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In his nine years as quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger has taken a run-dominant offense and molded it into a fully-capable passing attack and consistently led one of the NFL’s most storied franchises to the postseason.
After becoming the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 2005, Roethlisberger already has his name etched in the NFL record books, but now he is on the precipice of another team record that would continue to fortify his place as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Steelers history.
With 300 yards in Thursday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans — and their 29th-ranked defense — “Big Ben” would surpass Terry Bradshaw as Pittsburgh’s all-time leading passer. Bradshaw passed for 27,989 yards in 14 seasons. Roethlisberger has 27,690 only four games into his ninth.
“It’s an awesome honor, you know?” Roethlisberger told reporters after Tuesday’s practice (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “Shoot, a storied franchise and he’s The Guy, the face of this. I know there’s a lot of ’70s Steelers, but, when you’re talking about quarterbacks and offense and stuff, he’s the guy. To have an opportunity to break another record — and this is a pretty big one.”
The evolution of the game has cultivated a plethora of prolific passers from Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. And while 5,000-yard passing seasons were all but unheard of in Bradshaw’s era (his single-season best was 3,724 in 1979 while Roethlisberger already has two 4,000-yard seasons), Roethlisberger has enabled the Steelers to adapt while maintaining their physical style of play.
But will Bradshaw be proud to see Roethlisberger eclipse his mark? Or does he still resent the quarterback he repeatedly called out only two years ago?
After Roethlisberger avoided an arrest following a suspected sexual assault before the 2010 season, Bradshaw took the Steelers quarterback to task on a Fox pre-game broadcast and questioned the team’s decision to keep Roethlisberger and trade Santonio Holmes after he was suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
“They should have dumped you,” Bradshaw said in an address to Roethlisberger (via USA Today). “What you did in my eyes was a lot worse.”
The two reconciled a bit in 2011, with Bradshaw publicly saying (via USA Today), “I encouraged him and told him that ‘Yesterday is yesterday,’ and I got his back and I support him 100 percent. But if he screws up I’m going to say it. I’m not shy about telling you how I feel.”
But Bradshaw has not been telling Roethlisberger much of anything lately.
“We haven’t talked,” Pittsburgh’s quarterback told the Post-Gazette. “I’ve never had an issue [with him]. He said a bunch of things in the past about me; it hurts a little bit when you think about family, but I’ve never been one to say anything to him or at him.”