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Brady proves he's the better QB

| Monday, Nov. 15, 2010

When Ben Roethlisberger said New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the NFL, he wasn't just listening to himself talk. Roethlisberger believed every word because he and Brady belong to a very special fraternity.

They're the only active quarterbacks to win at least two Super Bowls. Winning trumps everything.

"I think he's the best to play the game right now," Roethlisberger said about Brady before the Steelers' 39-26 loss Sunday night to the Patriots at Heinz Field. "He's just a really good passer. He's a good leader. He seems to do a little bit of everything."

Brady has what Roethlisberger wants, which is another Super Bowl victory; Brady leads, 3-2, in that category.

Mind you, Roethlisberger has one more Super Bowl win than Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, so they don't count. Neither does Philip Rivers, who is still seeking his first Super Bowl ring.

If those players are standard-bearers for what passes for elite quarterbacks, none of them belong in the same room with Brady. When asked about Brady last week, Roethlisberger knew what he was doing when he listed Brady in a class by himself.

"He's really something special," said Roethlisberger, who has never spoken about Manning with such reverence. "He's as good as it gets."

Why would Roethlisberger bother with the rhetoric if he didn't mean it• Since returning from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, Roethlisberger has made an honest attempt to improve his public image.

It's been an excruciatingly tough challenge, almost as difficult as deciphering New England coach Bill Belichick's complicated defensive schemes. According to CNBC, Roethlisberger's No. 7 jersey sales dropped out of the top 25 from April through October on, the league's official store. It marked the first time Roethlisberger's jersey didn't rank among the top 25 in sales since early September of his rookie season six years ago.

That was before Roethlisberger became the Steelers' starting quarterback, well before he became the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl at 23, and then won another Super Bowl three years later for good measure.

At 28, Roethlisberger is doing everything in his power to take the next step and become more like Brady, the quarterback he seemingly wants to emulate. Based on last night's first half, he had his work cut out for him.

Brady was 17 of 25 for 180 yards and a touchdown, despite no longer having Randy Moss in his arsenal. Brady spread the ball around with surgical precision to eight different receivers in building a 10-3 halftime lead.

Roethlisberger was 7 of 20 for 90 yards in the first half. The air seemed to go out of the Steelers' passing attack when Hines Ward suffered a neck injury late in the first quarter. Mike Wallace dropped a touchdown pass, and Antwaan Randle El couldn't handle another potential scoring toss.

Brady finished by completing 30 of 43 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another score. Roethlisberger piled up yardage -- and three touchdowns -- in the fourth quarter and finished 30 of 49 for 387 yards. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Roethlisberger has to fight the temptation to force throws, then explain that he was only trying to make a play following a costly interception. Against Brady, he had to be on top of his game, even if some of his offensive teammates weren't on top of theirs.

That's what franchise quarterbacks are paid handsomely do to -- make something good happen. That's what Brady does all the time. That's what he did last night.

Late in the third quarter, Roethlisberger drove the Steelers inside the red zone. Wallace's blazing speed led to a New England pass interference penalty, and the Steelers appeared poised to score their first touchdown of the game.

However, Roethlisberger failed to connect with rookie Emmanuel Sanders on a third-down pass in the end zone. It's a routine that Roethlisberger and Ward have performed successfully for years, but Ward wasn't in the game because of injury and Roethlisberger and Sanders weren't on the same page. Making matters worse, Jeff Reed missed a 26-yard field goal.

The Steelers' defense, ranked No. 4 overall, futilely attempted to corral Brady, who had his way all game. And the Steelers' offense, ranked No. 28 overall, attempted to overcome the defensive letdown.

It was the type of game that Brady has made famous, a game that Roethlisberger has played before and will play in the future and needed to play last night for the Steelers to have a chance.

He couldn't pull it off.

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