Of course, the comparisons began on draft day when the Giants traded for Manning instead of sitting tight and drafting Roethlisberger and they'll likely continue on into the next decade. Without a doubt, round one goes to Roethlisberger, who brought a 12-1 Steelers club into Giants Stadium last weekend to face Manning, who looked basically horrible in dropping his first four starts.
In addition to answering questions about his play and the slumping team, Manning last week also had to endure queries about Roethlisberger and his success.
"I think you have to understand that we are in different situations and you can't worry about what other people are doing," Manning said. "You have to try to take care of yourself, and right now, I am just trying to get better and trying to improve this offense and make plays when they are there. So that is my concern right now and that is what I am trying to deal with."
Asked about Roethlisberger's play, Manning said, "He is playing good football. He is winning games. That is what you have to do as a quarterback. It is all about winning games. You have to give him credit."
Roethlisberger has benefited from playing with the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense and No. 2-ranked rushing attack this season. He has not been asked to win games by himself, but has done a superb job of managing the offense and doing what's been asked of him. Pittsburgh has 494 rushing attempts and thrown 284 passes, easily the most lopsided run-pass ratio in the league.
"Obviously, I think it's helped him a lot," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said of Roethlisberger's strong supporting cast. "I think our approach to the game and this whole football team has been one that's been based and built on the whole team concept. We don't have a lot of star players; we've got a lot of guys that are having very good years. Certainly, the offensive line has been very solid and we've been able to stay healthy there. We've got two really good backs in Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis and three outstanding receivers in Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El. I think there's a lot of good people at their positions, and certainly Ben has done a good job handling his part of it."
Roethlisberger isn't just along for the ride. He has completed 164 of 248 passes (66.1 percent) for 2,084 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
How different would the perception of each quarterback be today if they had been chosen by each other's team last April?
"Luckily, I don't have to think about that," Roethlisberger said. "I'm here and he's there and I'm enjoying being here with the Steelers. I love this organization, the coaches, the owners, the team, and I'm very thankful for what I have here."
Roethlisberger was asked if he feels for what Manning has endured in his rocky rookie season.
"You know, I have a lot to worry about down here and a lot to take care of playing football," he said. "Eli is up there and things will get better for him, he's a great quarterback. I have all of the confidence that he will improve the way things are going up there. But to me, I don't have time to worry about other things except for what's going on here in Pittsburgh."
The Giants had both quarterbacks rated very high prior to the draft, with many in the organization said to favor Roethlisberger. They did extensive studies on both Manning, who set 47 school records at Mississippi, and Roethlisberger, who left Miami of Ohio after three seasons and 84 touchdown passes. The Giants studied hours of tape, attended their private workouts and spent time with them away from the football field. Although Manning was their guy, Roethlisberger impressed the Giants.
"His talent level was extremely high," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We were there for the workouts, we did all of the interviews and went through the whole process and had a very, very strong feeling about him."
Asked what kind of "vibes" he got from Roethlisberger after spending time with him, Coughlin said, "Solid, real good, real good. We had dinner with him and then had an opportunity to look at some tape with him. Very good."
In the end, however, the Giants coveted Manning too much to let him go. After the San Diego Chargers selected him with the first pick in the draft, the Giants engineered a trade to bring him to East Rutherford. Pittsburgh selected Roethlisberger with the 11th pick. Despite the widely disparate starts the two young quarterbacks have had, the Giants are confident they have the right man. And, of course, the Steelers and Roethlisberger are happy with the way everything turned out.
"By no means was I disappointed in not going to the Giants," Roethlisberger said. "Everyone seemed to make a big deal about that, but I was just looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NFL. Whatever team that I was going to go out there and try and do the best I could, and I feel that I came to a great organization and a great team and I'm very happy with where I'm at now."
Both teams are happy with the quarterbacks they have. And just as the Giants have been impressed with Roethlisberger, the Steelers believe Manning's current troubles are temporary.
"I think Eli is going to be a very good quarterback in this league from what I see," Cowher said. "I think he's got mobility, he can make all of the throws and I think he's got a great feel for the game. He's gone against some tough defenses. Baltimore makes a lot of quarterbacks look bad and we're no exception from our first game. I think again that you give the kid time and give him some experience, I don't think there's any question that he is going to have success in this league."
Coughlin on his considering letting Manning sit out a game: "I don't think that's the answer. I think you have to compete and look at the defenses we've played over the last few weeks and that's just part of the deal. That's part of it, too. I can't make it any easier for you. It is what it is. You are playing against the best in football, without a doubt, and it's week in and week out, and of course it doesn't get any easier this week. I don't know that that's the answer; I will say that we have got to take better care of the football. I'm not going to sit here and stand for that now. That's not even giving us a chance to win when we turn it over like that."
Coughlin on having to ‘sell' Manning to the team: "No. We had a discussion in the locker room following the game and I think the players are in agreement with it and I told them exactly that it was my responsibility. I made the decision. I said that Kurt played an outstanding game when he came off the bench, but Eli remains the starter. Eli's got to go out and do what I believe what he told you after the game, to make plays so his teammates realize that he can win the game for him."
Coughlin on his confidence level in Manning: "The first-year player, the rookie player who has this kind of opportunity and this kind of experience, it is a priceless experience and it doesn't come without pain. (Baltimore) was a setback, I thought that the second half of Atlanta and the first half of Philadelphia were outstanding, we were in the right direction, the last two weeks haven't been as such but I'm not changing my opinion one iota. I think you've got to play through these things."
Tiki Barber on Manning: "We try to support Eli as best we can and give him our confidence because we know he's going to struggle a little bit, but that's not the point. The point is that we believe in him."
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