Steelers' Roethlisberger, Patriots' Brady hardly mirror images yet wildly successful
This could be the last time: Tom Brady, three-time Super Bowl winner, vs. Ben Roethlisberger, two-time Super Bowl winner.
Two of the most competitive quarterbacks of their time, two of the most successful quarterbacks of all time.
And, like Steelers safety Ryan Clark said, two exceptionally skilled athletes who share rarefied air yet are completely unlike each other.
“Our guy fights and scratches for every play, will take big hits from D-linemen, will break tackles, will stay up and try to make a play until the end,” Clark said. “I would guess Tom Brady is competitive, but I just think it shows in different ways with the two of them.”
One married a supermodel, lives in a $20 million California house on the ocean and a New York penthouse and airs out his teammates on the sidelines like a drill sergeant. He's the guy you'll never get to know unless you're a New York society circle regular.
The other married a former college basketball player, lives in a suburban Pittsburgh house nowhere near the water and would praise his teammates if he were sacked on every play. He's the guy you feel like you've always known.
“He's the best,” Roethlisberger said. “Fourth-quarter drives, Super Bowls, and, to me, the No. 1 factor is championships. He's got great vision, great arm strength and a great understanding of offense and defense. The first part of the season he was playing with receivers that nobody had really heard of, and you've got to give him credit for getting his team to 6-2.”
Brady has played in five Super Bowls and won three; Roethlisberger has played in three Super Bowls and won two.
From 1986-2009, multiple Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks never met in an NFL regular-season game. Brady and Roethlisberger will do so Sunday in Foxborough for the third time in four seasons but perhaps for the final time.
The Patriots and Steelers aren't guaranteed a meeting again until 2016, when Brady would be 39 and Roethlisberger 34. They can play before then only in the playoffs or — and this appears to be a long shot — if both teams finish in the same place in their respective divisions this season or in 2014.
Roethlisberger and Brady are 1-1 against each other when meeting as multiple Super Bowl winners, including a 25-17 Steelers win in 2011. Brady holds a 4-2 edge overall (he missed a 2008 Steelers win with a knee injury).
“He's one of the best quarterbacks, and he's done it for a long time,” Brady said. “They're always tough to beat. He's been in some big games and won them.”
Roethlisberger has been plagued by a line that seemingly changes from series to series due to injuries and the lack of a stable running game.
Brady, fighting through a hand injury, has seen his statistics drop since last season. He was 209 of 320 for 2,408 yards, 16 TDs and three interceptions through eight games in 2012. This season he's a more modest 171 of 307 for 1,824 yards, nine TDs and six interceptions. Yet the Patriots own a better record than their 5-3 at this stage of last season.
“He never had the big-name outside receiver. The one year he gets Randy Moss, he throws 50 touchdowns,” Clark said. “Tom Brady makes it work with whoever they have on the field. That's what makes him exceptional.”
What makes this Steelers-Patriots game exceptional are the quarterbacks who have combined to play in eight of the past 12 Super Bowls.
“I'll sit there and watch (him) closely,” Roethlisberger said. “If there is something, even one thing, that I can pick up from his game that I can use to make my game better, I will try to do that.”
The fans might want to watch closely, too, because they might not see Roethlisberger and Brady together again.
Unless they share a platform at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.