Former Steelers Kruczek Likes Big Ben

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is the talk of the NFL as the rookie has guided Pittsburgh to four consecutive wins as a starter and he became the first AFC rookie to win Offensive Player of the Week since Denver Broncos running back Mike Anderson in 2000.

This is not the first time that a rookie quarterback has stepped in and saved the Steelers bacon. In 1976 Mike Kruczek out of Boston College was thrust into the starters role after Turkey Joe Jones planted Terry Bradshaw into the turf at old Cleveland Stadium and Bradshaw suffered a neck injury.

Kruczek took over a Steelers team that had staggered to a 1-4 start and guided them to six consecutive victories. Kruczek is quick to point out it was a different game back then.

"Way back when we were one and four and we had just come off a Super Bowl victory the year before," Kruczek recalled. "Terry (Bradshaw) got hurt up at Cleveland and I hadn't even taken a snap in the first five games except the last quarter of the game against Cleveland when I had to go in and play.

"But the game is different and there aren't a whole lot of similarities as to what he (Roethlisberger) is experiencing versus some of these defenses and myself. None the less you are still 22 years old or 23 and you have to go out and play and are expected to do well."

Kruczek had a great cast of players around him including several Hall of Famers.

"Again it gets back to the difference in the game," Kruczek explained. "We were a more run oriented game with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier with a mixture of pass. I tell people our defense woke up when a young kid had to play. They realized that they had to shoulder some of the burden for the team to get back on its feet. Obviously they picked up the pace with four shutouts in the next ten games which is remarkable - you only have to score three points to win.

"I just went in there knowing that I had to have fun and have a good time and do what I could do best and don't try and overstep the boundaries of my own athletic ability and let the others guys do what they do best. They had been to two Super Bowls and the rest took care of itself through that stretch."

Kruczek only threw 81 passes in the ten games he played in that season and completed 51 with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Kruczek, an all-America quarterback at Boston College and owner of two Super Bowl rings while a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has joined the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff as quarterbacks coach after 19 seasons at the University of Central Florida, including the past six as head coach.

"I do have some history with Ben," Kruczek pointed out. "He was a quarterback at Miami of Ohio when I was the head coach at UCF. He has tremendous physical ability and I mean not only a big strong fast kid with a tremendous delivery, but he's smart, he's bright and he comes from a program that taught him the right way. He has all the qualities you want as a quarterback - not only physically but also mentally.

"I think you can see it week in and week out the way he handles himself and the passes that he makes and the way he throws it away and the plays he makes with his legs."

Kruczek thinks Roethlisberger is approaching the game the right way.

"He has a quality that a lot of great quarterbacks have - he has that calm demeanor," Kruczek said. "You cannot get rattled and obviously he has to understand who he is playing with and he's got to depend on his teammates to get it done and not try and do everything and I think he realizes that. It is a remarkable accomplishment that he is 4-0 at this point. That is fantastic and I wish him the best.

"I like Ben and you know I interviewed him after the college season and I knew him from when we played him a couple of years ago in college and I've always had tremendous respect for what he can do and after I got to know him as a person I was even more impressed with him."

Kruczek feels the Steelers have their quarterback for many years to come.

"I'm not saying that they haven't had a quarterback for awhile," Kruczek explained. "Tommy Maddox has played above his head to some degree over the years and done a fantastic job for them and you had Kordell Stewart there for awhile and you had Neil O'Donnell there for awhile and back in the old days teams used to stay together for a long period of time and Bradshaw was with that team for 14 or 15 years and I'm sure Pittsburgh would like to keep this kid that long."

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