Sunday afternoon at New York’s MetLife Stadium, there will be a quarterback battle that dates all the way back to the 2004 draft.
That year Eli Manning went No. 1 overall to the New York Giants while the Pittsburgh Steelers had some great fortune of their own when they nabbed Ben Roethlisberger at No. 11.
But in their ninth year in the league, which quarterback is better?
That brings up an interesting debate, one that there may be no right answer to.
The first comparison is the most important one: winning.
Roethlisberger already ranks 30th of all-time with 84 regular season wins and a .700 winning percentage. Manning is 43rd alltime with 75 wins and a not-so-impressive .591 winning percentage.
Big -ame quarterbacks? Check. Both signal-callers have combined to win four of the eight Super Bowls since they came into the league.
Manning has played in 11 postseason games, winning eight, while Big Ben has played in 13 playoff games, winning 10 of those.
Both also have the outstanding qualities that great leaders need, including making big plays in big moments and being tough, although in different ways.
Roethlisberger has the edge in wins, but Manning has a slight statistical edge; however that’s not great enough to separate the two as Manning plays in a much different offense.
The 2004 Draft is the only one that has produced two quarterbacks who have won multiple Super Bowls, so Manning and Roethlisberger will be forever linked, but the difference between them is so close.
I guess it all comes down to who the individual likes under center.
For instance, in his preseason quarterback rankings, ESPN’s John Clayton put Roethlisberger at No. 4 and Manning at No. 5. In Ron Jaworski’s rankings, Manning is No. 5 and Roethlisberger is No. 6.
They’ve split their two meetings against each other and they are both heading to the Hall of Fame as soon as they are eligible. They are two quarterbacks who almost every general manager in the league would jump at the chance to get, but who’s better?
Let’s take a look at four categories.
Efficiency: Roethlisberger has been the more consistent and accurate quarterback and takes better care of the football. He has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in seven seasons and has posted a passer rating over 90 in seven of those. Manning has connected on more than 60 percent of his throws in five seasons (his highest was only 62.9 percent) and notched passer rating over 90 only twice. Edge: Roethlisberger.
Production: Roethlisberger has two 4,000-yard seasons in his previous three, but he hasn’t thrown more than 26 touchdowns during that span. Manning on the other hand puts up more passing yards and points. In each of the previous three seasons, Manning has passed for more than 4,000 yards and has thrown at least 27 touchdowns. His 2011 season was one for the ages and he has the second-longest streak in NFL history of passing for at least 200 yards in a game (24). Edge: Manning.
Clutch play: These are two of the best fourth-quarter quarterbacks in the game today. Manning has led two last-minute touchdown drives to win a couple of Lombardi trophies and Super Bowl MVP awards and set the league record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes last season. Roethlisberger’s resume is equally as impressive and also includes a last-minute winning touchdown throw in the Super Bowl. His 19 comeback victories and 25 game-winning drives were the most through a quarterback’s first seven seasons, and he was the only quarterback to produce 20 fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories before he turned 30. You can’t go wrong with either guy in this spot but if I can pick one quarterback to engineer one drive at the end of a game, I’m still taking my chances with Roethlisberger. It’s a tough call but he wins by a nose hair. Edge: Roethlisberger
Wins: This is where Roethlisberger separates himself from Manning and almost every other quarterback in the league. He has an 84-36 record (.700) in the regular season, which dwarfs Manning’s 75-52 record (.590) and became the fourth quarterback of the Super Bowl era to reach 80 wins in 113 or fewer starts, leading the Steelers to four AFC championship game appearances in his first seven seasons. He has the edge in both regular and postseason wins. Edge: Roethlisberger.
Verdict: It’s really close, but I have to give a slight edge to Roethlisberger. That’s mostly based on his reputation for winning. Every defense in the league would acknowledge how difficult it is to play against Roethlisberger. That’s no disrespect to Manning and like I said before, there really is no right answer to this question. But I will take my chances with Big Ben in this debate and like he’s done throughout his career, more times than not, I’m going to win.