Is Ben Roethlisberger In The Same Elite Category As Peyton Manning?

Peyton Manning‘s retired from pro football yesterday amidst one of the greatest careers in NFL history. Now and forever, Manning’s name will be in every conversation about the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks. Yet, there’s one player, that when his name is brought up outside of Pittsburgh (if his name is brought up) is never in that conversation: Ben Roethlisberger.

I’m not going to suggest that Roethlisberger’s numbers can even compare with every single season record that Peyton Manning currently holds, or that Ben will ever catch up with those numbers. The offenses these two have played in couldn’t be any different. Manning played in a high octane, pass-first offense for almost all of his career. Roethlisberger, leaned on a strong running game for much of his NFL lifespan.

Manning or Roethlisberger?

So when you ask someone in Pittsburgh who you’d rather have, Manning or Roethlisberger, why is it that fans choose Big Ben?

Part of it is certainly bias. We’re Steelers fans and we’re never going to choose an outsider of one of our own. But looking at the larger picture, Ben’s numbers, when taking averages and percentages, aren’t far off of Manning’s. In fact, most Steeler fans that understand this, get riled up when Roethlisberger isn’t mentioned in the same breath as a future first ballot Hall of Famer.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have an emotional disconnect with fans who still felt Peyton Manning was Peyton Manning. The sentiment could be felt after DeAngelo’s Williams’ comments about Manning’s last season being “garbage.”

But Williams makes a great point. Consider both Peyton and Ben had an injury-plagued 2015, and see who produced better on the field:

Peyton Manning Ben Roethlisberger
Games 10 12
Pass Attempts 331 469
Pass Completions 198 319
Completion % 59.8 (27th) 68.0 (4th)
Passing Yards 2,249 3,938
Yards Per Game 224.9 (27th) 328.2 (1st)
Yards Per Attempt 6.8 (29th) 8.4 (2nd)
Touchdown Passes 9 (31st) 21 (17th)
Interceptions 17 (2nd) 16 (3rd)
Comp for 1st Downs 110 174
Passer Rating 67.9 (34th) 94.5 (11th)
Rushing First Downs 0 4

Roethlisberger played 2 more games, but still nearly lead the NFL in some of the major statistical categories, while Peyton Manning was near the bottom, or even lower than some of the backups who saw significant playing time in the league last year. Among those with a better passer rating than Manning include Blaine Gabbert, Matt Hasselbeck, Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles. In fact, Manning was tied for 24th with Ryan Mallet, who ended up playing for two different clubs.

Williams comments based on 2015 numbers, along with every fan who thought Big Ben was better, would be correct.

But what about career-wise? The numbers might surprise you.

Regular Season

Tm G GS QBrec Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate 4QC GWD
13 yrs IND 208 208 141-67-0 64.9 54828 399 5.5 198 2.7 7.6 7.5 11.7 263.6 94.9 35 46
4 yrs DEN 58 57 45-12-0 66.5 17112 140 6.5 53 2.4 7.9 8.1 11.9 295 101.7 10 10
Career (17 seasons) 266 265 186-79-0 65.3 71940 539 5.7 251 2.7 7.7 7.6 11.7 270.5 96.5 45 56
Career (12 seasons) 171 169 113-56-0 64.1 42995 272 5 147 2.7 7.9 7.7 12.4 251.4 94 27 37


Year G GS QBrec Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate 4QC GWD
Career 27 27 14-13 63.2 7339 40 3.9 25 2.4 7.1 6.8 11.3 271.8 87.4 2 2
Career 17 17 11-6 61.5 4052 22 4.2 19 3.6 7.8 7 12.6 238.4 84.6 3 4

It’s very difficult to compare yards and touchdowns when one player was playing in a run-first offense for much of his career. I also neglected adding the full passing yards, attempts, completions, etc. because the numbers are rather lopsided in favor of Manning, who has 5 full NFL seasons on Ben. (We can always revisit this topic again in 2021.)

Law of Averages

Instead, we should concentrate on averages and instances where Ben stacks up with Peyton or outplays him. Roethlisberger has won 67% of his regular season games compared with Manning’s 70%. Manning edges Roethlisberger in completion percentage, touchdown percentage and yards per game. However, Ben’s interception ratio matches Manning’s for accuracy, while all of Ben’s yards per attempt categories edge Manning’s. Manning has a slightly higher QB rating, while both quarterbacks have a tremendous resume for 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives.

Playoff Numbers

It’s when you look at their playoff records that Ben’s star begins to shine brighter. Both players share 2 Super Bowl victories, with Manning having played in 4 to Roethlisberger’s 3. (The difference being, Peyton just won his second this season.)

Ben is 3 wins away from Peyton’s playoff wins total, while he has lost 7 less games: both a testament to how many early postseason exits Manning has had, as well as how many playoff games he’s played in.

Their numbers are near comparable in every category, with each trading different stats, as they do in the regular season. Ben has an additional 4th quarter victory and 2 more game winning drives under his belt, in 10 less playoff appearances.

First Dozen Seasons

If you were to only take Manning’s first 12 seasons and compared them with Ben’s dozen years in the league, some of the numbers skew heavily in Ben’s favor.

For example, Manning threw 181 picks to Ben’s 147 in their first 12 years. Manning’s completion percentage of 64.8 to 64.1 for Ben, is a negligible difference, as is Manning’s 95.6 QB rating to Roethlisberger’s 94.

Manning’s 9-11 playoff record in his first 12 seasons also pales in comparison to Ben’s 11-6. Ben also has a better road playoff record (4-2 to 2-5) and has scored more points in his playoff appearances with 24.82 to Manning’s 22.15.

Most of Manning’s statistics are heavily skewed by his final seasons in a Denver Broncos uniform, one in which he set NFL single season records for every major passing statistic. Yet, Ben has a dubious record of his own, having been the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 500 yards in a game twice during his career. He then topped it the following week by joining Y.A. Tittle as the only other quarterback to throw for at least 6 touchdowns in back-to-back games.

Answer: They’re Both Legends

After pouring over all of the statistics, there’s no doubt that each of these quarterbacks are legends in their own right, and without a doubt, on their way to immortality within the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This article wasn’t written to discount any of Manning’s accomplishments, which certainly outnumber those of Roethlisberger, rather, to shed some light on just how good Big Ben has played in his career: good enough to be in the conversation of the elite.

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