By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on a record-setting season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and if that high level of play continues the team’s 2004 first-round pick could also raise his stature nationally.
The 1983 NFL Draft class for quarterbacks generally is considered to be the best ever with Pro Football Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino all selected in the first round. Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien were also first-round selections.
Roethlisberger had lofty hopes when asked about his class this week, as the Steelers (4-3) prepare to face Eli Manning and the New York Giants (6-2) Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“When we get done playing, I want them to say that our class was the greatest quarterback class of all time,” Roethlisberger said. “Philip Rivers, myself, Eli, and Matt Schaub were in that class. So, of course, you root for the other guys.”
Schaub actually was a third-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2004, but he’s finally coming into his own with the Houston Texans. Manning picked up a second MVP award in the Super Bowl after last season.
“It has to be, right?” Roethlisberger said when asked if the 1983 QB class was the best. “I don’t know, but that’s the one I’d put at No. 1. But (2004 is pretty good. The championships in ours (already) is a little more than theirs.”
While Roethlisberger and Manning are far from completing career that should end with a bust at the Hall of Fame, their draft class might fall one short of the three Hall of Famers in the 1983 group. However, that class is just 2-8 in the Super Bowl with Elway leading both victories. He also has three losses. Kelly was 0-4, and Marino lost his only Super Bowl appearance after his second NFL season.
Manning and Roethlisberger have two Super Bowl wins each, so that’s a 4-2 edge in that category. Roethlisberger also has a loss in the big game, but a 4-1 record beats 2-8 every time. Other first-round quarterbacks from 2004, Rivers and J.P. Losman, have never played in the Super Bowl.
There’s no telling if Roethlisberger or Manning will add to their trophy cases, but each one’s future appears to be as bright as his past.
Roethlisberger, in particular, is putting up numbers like never before with nearly 2,000 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions with 13 sacks in seven games. That’s not bad for a dink and dunk offense, as Roethlisberger has called it.
“That’s what we are,” Roethlisberger reiterated. “Like I’ve said, when I said it a couple weeks ago, people made a big deal about it like I was being negative. But when I was growing up, the 49ers did it. That’s what a West Coast offense is.
“(I’m) not saying that we’re a West Coast offense, but dink and dunk is not a negative term. We’re just taking advantage of having quick, fast receivers. A lot of different receivers. (So), I think our offense is kind of designed for that … shorter passes and just making plays a number of different ways.”
Notes: OT Marcus Gilbert (foot), S Troy Polamalu (calf) and LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) are the only players who could be considered out for this week, but OLB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) also did not practice for the second straight day Thursday and RB Baron Batch (shin) was downgraded to not practicing after working out on a limited basis Wednesday. … RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) practiced in limited amount of drills for the second straight day Thursday, and he was joined by RB Jonathan Dwyer (quad). … S Ryan Clark (concussion), RB Isaac Redman (ankles) and LB Brandon Johnson (hamstring) were full participants in practice for the second straight day Thursday……The Steelers will not be traveling to New York until Gameday on Sunday morning…..
The New York Giants were without LB Chase Blackburn (hamstring), TE Bear Pascoe (ankle) and LB Jacquian Williams (knee) Thursday, while C David Baas (ankle, elbow), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), S Kenny Phillips (knee), LB Keith Rivers (calf) and S Antrel Rolle (concussion) worked out on a limited basis. … DT Rocky Bernard (quad) and WR Victor Cruz (calf) were full participants in practice Thursday.