Is Ben Roethlisberger a first-ballot Hall of Famer?

The NFL career of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger – affectionately forever known as “Big Ben” – has been nothing short of remarkable. Over a nearly two decade span, Roethlisberger had his fair share of ups and downs in the National Football League.

Undoubtedly, Roethlisberger left an indelible mark on American football, leading to the question of whether he not only deserves induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame but also should enter as a first-ballot player. In this piece, we’ll dive into the debate for and against Roethlisberger’s inclusion in the hall, potentially as a first-ballot player, and examine his legacy and that of the Hall of Fame itself.

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A stellar career: The case for Roethlisberger’s induction

Roethlisberger’s career has been characterized as one filled with outstanding performances and success, as well as numerous achievements. These accomplishments include multiple Super Bowl victories, multiple Pro Bowl selections, and a reputation for being one of the best quarterbacks of his generation.

On and off the field, Big Ben’s leadership was often praised by teammates and coaches. His ability to inspire and foster a winning culture, vocally support teammates (visually, even, when he wore Heath Miller‘s jersey at training camp, and later Ramon Foster‘s), guide rookies, and meet “the standard” within the Steelers organization earned him mutual respect and a large fan-following.

As a result, the Steelers remained a perennial contender in the AFC during his tenure: a testament to Roethlisberger’s impact on the team.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is meant to recognize the most outstanding and influential players in the history of the sport. Given Roethlisberger’s successes and impact on the game, there is a strong argument to be made that he deserves to be immortalized among American football’s elite; even entering as a first-ballot inductee.

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Critics’ focus: The case against Roethlisberger’s induction

There are some valid arguments for Roethlisberger not being a first-ballot inductee, and some for why the quarterback may not enter the Hall of Fame. Critics point out that early personal issues off the field led to Roethlisberger needing to mature on the field. They further point out his individual statistics.

One critic wrote that, despite his team’s success, Roethlisberger “never led the league in passing yards.”

While that is inaccurate – Roethlisberger was the league leader in 2014 (4,952 yards) and 2018 (5,129) per Pro Football Reference – detractors point to passing touchdowns and completion percentage leaders at quarterback. They also focus on interception percentage and fumbles.

Roethlisberger never led the league in passing touchdowns, but he was among the top 10 of all active quarterbacks in that statistic in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020.

Further, critics point out that, despite six nominations to the Pro Bowl (voted mainly by fans), Roethlisberger was named First Team All-Pro just once (as the 2004 AP Rookie of the Year).

Somehow these critics have written off the fact that Roethlisberger received the following awards:

2004 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year
2004 NFL PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year
2004 NFL Sporting News Rookie of the Year
2004 NFL All-Rookie Team
2011 NFL Top 100 (#41)
2012 NFL Top 100 (#30)
2013 NFL Top 100 (#61)
2014 NFL Top 100 (#31)
2015 NFL Top 100 (#26)
2016 NFL Top 100 (#21)
2017 NFL Top 100 (#22)
2018 NFL Top 100 (#18)
2019 NFL Top 100 (#44)

Many critics expressed concerns about Roethlisberger’s consistency over the course of his career. While he had some incredible seasons and outstanding moments, there were stretches where he struggled with injuries or inconsistent play. Some argue that Hall of Fame players should have a more sustained level of excellence over a longer period of time.

One argument against Roethlisberger’s induction is the overall strength of the quarterback position in the Hall of Fame, with one writer sharing this:

“With legendary names like Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning already enshrined, some argue that Roethlisberger may not stand out as much in comparison.”

Brady has not been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, yet. Manning was enshrined in the Class of 2021. Montana was enshrined in the Class of 2000. This stinks of cherry-picking.

Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio

The Pro Football Hall of Fame: What and who does it represent?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame serves to celebrate the best and brightest in the sport of American professional football. It’s main focus is on the National Football League, however, and the league’s history. It is meant to inspire future generations of players and fans alike, showcasing the greatness that can be achieved through hard work, talent, athleticism and determination. It also focuses on coaches, scouts, and others who’ve contributed to professional football.

Inductees are held up as role models and ambassadors for the sport.

For many critics of player inductees, this is where debates heat up: individual character. Should the Hall of Fame solely honor on-field accomplishments, or should it also take into account a player’s character and off-field conduct? It’s a question that has been asked time and time again, particularly in the context of players who have faced scrutiny for alleged misconduct.

To be fair, O.J. Simpson is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, as is Ray Lewis. Both of those inductees have seen legal issues that didn’t eliminate them. In fact, while Simpson’s issues occurred after his enshrinement, Lewis’ occurred while he was actively playing in the NFL, long before his enshrinement.

Roethlisberger, and other players, shouldn’t be held to a higher personal conduct standard. This argument, then, becomes moot – despite contention – unless the Hall of Fame were to go back in history and eliminate any enshrined member with questionable character issues.

As for how Roethlisberger measures up to other enshrined NFL quarterbacks, reference to the Pro Football Reference Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFm) – “a metric designed to estimate a player’s chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame using AV, Pro Bowls, All-Pros, championships, and various stat milestones, the players listed below are the top 250 HOFm-rated players who played QB (starting in 1955 or later for at least 50 career games). A score of 100 is around the average modern-era inductee.”

There are numerous quarterbacks already enshrined in the Hall of Fame who have much lower “scores” under this metric. Just ask Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, and Warren Moon.

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The Verdict: Bet on it?

Whether or not Ben Roethlisberger is inducted into the Hall of Fame will ultimately come down to a vote from the selection committee.

Based on on-field success, it is clear that Roethlisberger has done enough to merit consideration for the Hall of Fame. However, his off-field conduct and character issues have raised questions amongst critics, fairly or unfairly, about whether he should be honored in such a way. With such a difficult decision, it is extremely difficult to predict what the ultimate outcome will be.

Some fans have found creative ways to make their opinions heard by betting on potential Hall of Fame inductees. Online sportsbooks like Bovada, BetOnline, and DraftKings offer lines for which players will be inducted each year. Bettors can wager on which players they think will make the cut, with odds adjusted accordingly as more information becomes available. If betting on the Hall of Fame is your first rodeo, be sure to use promotions such as this DraftKings promo code to get started.

Only time will tell if Roethlisberger is destined for Canton, as a first-ballot inductee or forced to wait a few years, or if he will ultimately slip through the cracks as many NFL quarterbacks have. Either way, Big Ben’s career and impact on the game of football will not be forgotten.

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