Next up for Ravens: Ben Roethlisberger

In consecutive weeks the Ravens have faced-off against headlining signal callers whose last name just happened to be Manning. After torturing Eli and doing their best to keep Peyton in check, Baltimore now goes up against record setting rookie Ben Roethlisberger this weekend. And the question must be asked; why did the 2004 Rookie of the Year, who is presently compared to Dan Marino, fall out of the draft's top ten?

Coming out of high-school, programs in the Big Ten tried to recruit Roethlisberger as a receiver. So when a small division I-A team, the Miami Redhawks, promised the tall, strong armed passer a chance to line-up behind center, off he went.

Early in his college career it was easy to tell "Big Ben" was going to be a special player, the type of prospect that would have success on the college level then parlay that into NFL riches.

One of the nation's premiere freshmen in 2001, Roethlisberger exploded onto the scene immediately starting for Miami. On his way he set several conference passing records as he torched opponents.

And while scouts began to take notice of Roethlisberger the single game which literally turned the tide in his favor was an early 2002 contest against the Iowa Hawkeyes. In that game Roethlisberger completed 65% of his passes for 343 yards with three scoring strikes as a sophomre. This against a Hawkeye team that eventually won the Big Ten title then went on to play USC in the Orange Bowl. From that point on scouts were hooked on Roethlisberger.

Improving his game as a junior, Roethlisberger led the Redhawks to a conference championship as well as a victory against Louisville in the GMAC Bowl. Immediately afterwards Big Ben announced his intention to enter the NFL Draft.

Like all NFL-wannabe's Roethlisberger was quickly introduced to the pre-draft scouting process at the Indianapolis Combine where he was poked, prodded then made to show his wares for those in attendance.

The results were somewhat disappointing as his passes were not as crisp or accurate as they had been the previous three seasons on the football field. This led some to believe Roethlisberger was beneficiary of the sparsely talented Mid-American Conference and was not as good as his numbers.

My how they were wrong.

His combine performance led to a slide down draft boards as Roethlisberger fell into the laps of the Pittsburgh Steelers who owned the 11th choice of round one.

Considering how ineffective and brutally bad first pick Eli Manning has been, coupled with the inactivity of Philip Rivers who was selected fourth overall, Roethlisberger sits as the steal of the draft. Yet this should not surprise anyone.

An ideal combination of size, strength and brains, Roethlisberger possesses not only the physical skills to be a great NFL quarterback but also the mental intangibles and understanding of the position which helped foster his early success.

Uncharacteristically staying away from rookie mistakes and poor choices, Roethlisberger has led Pittsburgh on a twelve game winning streak as they ready to make a run at the Super Bowl.

How will Roethlisberger fare against Baltimore this week? The Ravens defense has the team speed in the front seven necessary to contain the immobile Roethlisberger and the talent in the secondary to limit his effectiveness. Of course one must note Big Ben has bucked the odds going on three months now.

Whatever the outcome may be, the stars are aligned in a favorable pattern for Roethlisberger who could well be the first great quarterback of the 21st century.

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