Steel City Underground presents "Steelers Throwback Thursday" featuring plays, stories, and recaps from recent seasons which you may have forgotten about! Now we're "bringing them back!"
Since we had a little fun with April Fool's Day with 'Big Ben' and his alleged new training regimen (yes, it was a joke), we thought it would be even more fun to celebrate this Steelers Throwback Thursday by looking back at the start of the "Roethlisberger Era" with the Pittsburgh Steelers: the 2004 NFL season.
As a former Miami University (Ohio) Redhawks quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger was expected, by many, to be the first player at his position off the board during the 2004 NFL Draft. Instead, on a crazy day that saw Philip Rivers and Eli Manning drafted and then traded, Roethlisberger finally heard his name called as the 11th player overall.
For the Steelers, Roethlisberger was penciled in as the QB3 on the depth chart behind Tommy Maddox and veteran backup Charlie Batch. Due to a preseason injury, Batch was moved back pm the depth chart and Roethlisberger was given the backup role. Maddox opened the season against the Oakland Raiders only to be injured during the third quarter in Week 2 versus the Baltimore Ravens. So, on September 19, 2004, Roethlisberger was sent onto the field - and the rest is history, as they say.
The Steelers were trailing their division rival, 20-0. It took the rookie a couple of passing plays before he was able to settle down and lead the team on two late scoring drives. In his NFL debut, Roethlisberger completed 12-of-20 passes for 176 yards and two touchdown passes (to two interceptions). Roethlisberger's first career touchdown went to Antwaan Randle El.
Yes, the Steelers lost the game, 30-13. And the original plan, which had been for Pittsburgh to ease the rookie into play throughout the season, was completely altered. Roethlisberger was named the starting quarterback for the Week 3 game against the Miami Dolphins, which saw him complete 12-of-22 passes for 163 yards, and one touchdown in a 13-3 victory.
Roethlisberger would go 13-0 as a starter that season in place of Maddox (14-1, if you include the playoffs), helping guide the Steelers on the path to becoming the first AFC team to have 15 wins in a single regular season. His biggest game was a 34-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (who were unbeaten up to that fateful October date), ending the Patriots' 21-game win streak. Roethlisberger's play that first season in black and gold would earn him unanimous selection as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (Associated Press); he was the first quarterback in 34 years to have received the honor and was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team.
With news that Roethlisberger is on track to return to play during the 2020 NFL season, it's exciting to look back at how his career with the Steelers began... and imagine what his reemergence might look, and feel, like.