Steelers Ben Roethlisberger was fortunate in his AFC North QB matchups

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7). Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7). Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

Ben Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Fame quarterback, but the Steelers legend was fortunate enough to avoid elite quarterbacks in the AFC North.

Ben Roethlisberger officially retired from the NFL following a legendary 18-year career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. For his sake, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

As Big Ben exits the league and rookie Kenny Pickett enters, the quarterback competition in the AFC North is really stiffening up. In his second NFL season, Joe Burrow led the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance and was one of the best signal-callers in the NFL in 2022. He has the potential to be a nightmare to Steelers fans for years to come.

Likewise, Lamar Jackson turned just 25 years old this offseason with an MVP already under his belt and a thoroughly impressive career record of 37-12 in the regular season. Deshaun Watson is the latest to join the party in the AFC North. While the three-time Pro Bowl faces a potentially lengthy suspension, Watson is just 26 years old and has been excellent early in his career.

Though these three quarterbacks still have a lot to prove on the football field, the potential to be one of the best quarterback divisions in football for the next decade is real. This got me thinking: Ben Roethlisberger was pretty fortunate to avoid elite QB competition in his own division for most of his impressive career.

Steelers QB avoided serious competition in the AFC North

Let’s give Big Ben some credit where credit is due. He did have Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in his conference for most of his professional career. These two players are obviously two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, and they have the accolades to prove it.

However, when it comes to head-to-head quarterback matchups over his 18-year career in the AFC North, Roethlisberger has been remarkably fortunate.

Carson Palmer was, in my opinion, his biggest competition of the group. However, he and Ben only played against each other in the AFC North in seven seasons — one of which his season was claimed by an injury after just four games.

Apart from Palmer, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton were the only two stable QB options Roethlisberger had to face in the division for the majority of his NFL career. Flacco started 11 years as the Ravens quarterback while Dalton was a nine-year starter for Cincinnati.

Flacco was the more successful QB of the two — miraculously earning a Super Bowl victory and leading his team to a respectable 98-78 record. However, in his 14-year NFL career, Flacco never once made the Pro Bowl or earned over 27 touchdowns in a season.

Both Flacco and Dalton were considered very average NFL starters for their entire careers. Meanwhile, the Browns went through 26 different starting quarterbacks during Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh. Baker Mayfield and Derek Anderson were probably the best of the group — which isn’t saying a whole lot.

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I’m not saying all of this to try to leave a stain on Ben Roethlisberger’s Hall of Fame NFL career. Rather, now that the QB competition is as strong as ever in the AFC North with Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson, we are certainly going to have to extend some grace to Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett if they don’t yield the results we are accustomed to seeing.