Pittsburgh Steelers fans have it good. I mean really good.
Many franchises never have a true franchise quarterback — the kind of field general who takes their team to the pinnacle of NFL glory, a Super Bowl. The Steelers have had the good fortune of having two. First was quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who in his 14 seasons led the Steelers to four championships.
However, the luster of those titles faded over time. But have no fear, because in 2004 the Steelers struck gold in the first round in drafting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger has since started 126 games and brought the Steelers franchise two more Super Bowl trophies.
In fact, the spoils of the Steelers fans have been great. Since Bradshaw’s rookie season in 1970, this team has gone to eight Super Bowls and had only nine losing seasons.
But as I look back at my favorite games Roethlisberger has played among those 126, there is always a few that stood out to me. Breaking the New England Patriots‘ 21-game win streak in 2004 and the five-touchdown first half in a beatdown of the Baltimore Ravens back in 2007 were both performances that will live fondly in my mind when Roethlisberger is being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But there’s always been one game that stands out above all the others to me. A game where Roethlisberger had to step out of his comfort zone, couldn’t rely on his typically stout defense, and won one of the great shootouts in NFL history.
On December 20, 2009, the Steelers welcomed the Green Bay Packers into Heinz Field, not knowing just what was going to happen. The Steelers were on a five-game losing skid and had all but been eliminated from playoff contention. The Packers, on the other hand, were hot: 9-4 and cruising into playoff contention.
Things looked grim for the Steelers.
But no one bothered to tell Roethlisberger they weren’t supposed to win. The Steelers defense was a sieve. The Packers offense was hitting on all cylinders, and the Steelers saw themselves down seven with just 2:00 to play. At this point in the game, Roethlisberger had already put on a show, but saved his best work for last.
That final 86-yard drive was amazing. Roethlisberger showed amazing poise and marched his team down the field. When the Steelers called a timeout with 18 seconds to go on the Packers 19, I honestly never lost faith. But then after an incompletion on first down, I was a little less confident. After another incompletion on second down, I was starting to panic.
But on third down, Roethlisberger made the perfect back shoulder throw to wide receiver Mike Wallace on the left side of the end zone to seal the game for the Steelers. It was a thing of beauty.
That final game-winning touchdown was just the icing on the cake for Roethlisberger, who had dissected the Packers defense for the entire game. Throw after throw, he was just more than the Packers defense could stop. His final stat line: 29-46 for 503 yards and three touchdowns.
Roethlisberger has never been known as a fantasy football quarterback, typically just doing what it takes to win. But on this day, Big Ben was the man. If you can find this game online, go back and watch it again because the performance he put on compares with any I’ve ever seen, and further cements the legacy of Roethlisberger in Steelers history.