Former Steelers HC admits that he would not have traded up for Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger / Tom Berg/GettyImages

The 2004 NFL Draft class will always be remembered for boasting a trio of specacular quarterbacks. Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger went on to have remarkable NFL careers filled with numerous accolades and a combined four Super Bowl wins (two from both Roethlsiberger and Manning). It goes without saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers made the right decision when Roethlisbeger somehow fell to them with the 11th overall pick way back in 2004.

But as much as former head coach Bill Cowher liked the quarterback class of 2004, he was perfectly fine with taking the best available lineman that fell to him had each of the top three quarterbacks all been taken.

Recently, Cowher caught up with Ben Roethlisberger on an episode of the Footbahlin Podcast where he explained that he loved the quarterbacks, but he would not have traded up for any of them. Here's part of what he had to say when recalling an old conversation with Mr. Rooney.

""I told Mr. Rooney that we are going to take a lineman, but if one of these quarterbacks gets to us, we are taking them because they are too good. So I said I don't think I would trade up for any of them. I said I think we are okay with Tommy [Maddox], we got Charlie [Batch]. I said I think we are okay. "

Bill Cowher, via Footbahlin Podcast

What was Cowher's reasoning not to trade up for Ben Roethlisberger or any of the quarterbacks in this class? They had a 32-year-old quarterback in Tommy Maddox and a backup they liked in Charlie Batch.

Maddox was coming off a 6-10 season in which he completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions -- resulting in a dismal 75.3 passer rating. Despite entering age-33 season in 2004, Maddox had just 31 career starts under his belt and was on his fourth NFL team.

Surprisingly, Cowher was perfectly content with what they had in Maddox. Cowher admitted that the plan was to stand pat and take the best offensive lineman. They were eyeing former Arkansas OL Shawn Andrews. The big offensive guard went five picks later to the Philadelphia Eagles. He would have two Pro Bowl years, but appeared in just 63 career games -- making 57 starts.

Steelers lucked into Ben Roethlisberger in 2004

It's a very different NFL now. Despite having a pedestrian journeyman quarterback at the helm in Tommy Maddox, it's remarkable that Bill Cowher and GM Kevin Colbert were perfectly alright with standing pat at the 11th overall pick even though they loved the quarterbacks in the 2004 class. That wouldn't happen today.

Though the passing game wasn't as big in the early 2000s, a starting quarterback has made a bigger impact than any position for generations. Knowing what they had in mind during the 2004 draft, it's safe to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers lucked into drafting Ben Roethlisberger.

Had Roethlisberger not been available with the 11th overall pick, we would be looking at a very different Steelers team over the years -- quite possibly one that includes two fewer Super Bowl wins. While Pittsburgh eventually would have drafted somebody else early in the following years who could have potentially been a franchise QB, that person would not have been Ben Roethlisberger.

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Obviously, things worked out in the end for Cowher, Colbert, and Roethlisberger. However, the decision to roll the dice and see if Big Ben happened to fall to pick 11 could have resulted in an entirely different outcome over the past two decades.