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Ben Roethlisberger’s Rookie Season Ranked Seventh-Best Among QBs Since 2000

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season was one for the ages. From the moment Roethlisberger took the field, Pittsburgh knew they had something special. The Steelers finally had a franchise quarterback after 20 years of mediocre quarterback play post-Terry Bradshaw.

Roethlisberger took over in Week 2 for an injured Tommy Maddox at Baltimore and never looked back. Roethlisberger won 13 straight games as the starter, 14 including the AFC Divisional Round win over the New York Jets. His lone loss was to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Roethlisberger’s 13 regular-season wins as a rookie is an NFL record. Despite the historic numbers, Dan Pizzuta of The 33rd Team tabbed Roethlisberger’s rookie season as the seventh-best among quarterbacks since 2000.

Roethlisberger was knocked because he came onto a team with an excellent supporting cast, including a running game the Steelers leaned on throughout the season.

“This low-volume, high-efficiency season allowed Roethlisberger and the Steelers to play to their strengths. His 8.9 yards per attempt were second in the league to Peyton Manning (9.2) that season, but Roethlisberger only threw 295 passes, which averaged 21 per game,” Pizzuta wrote.

“However, he was so efficient on his passes — 66.3 percent of his completions went for first downs or touchdowns (the fifth-highest rate for a player with 250 or more passes since 2020) — that he overcame interception and sack rates that were well below the league averages in that season.”

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at practice on Dec. 3, 2021. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Roethlisberger passed for 2,621 yards and had a 17-11 touchdown-interception ratio in his rookie season. For sure, not gaudy numbers. But his arm strength and ability to extend plays were eye-popping. He just had that “it” factor.  Just watch some of his highlights against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6 of the 2004 season.

https://twitter.com/JBaileyNFL/status/1452654703733526535/video/1

Current Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson’s 2012 rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks was ranked the third-best rookie season since 2000 by Pizzuta.

“The Seahawks leaned on a strong run game, and the Legion of Boom on defense, but Wilson was a massive part of the team’s success, especially late in the season. Following Seattle’s Week 12 bye through the playoffs, Wilson led the league in EPA per play (0.38) and success rate (56.8 percent) with 9.2 yards per attempt,” Pizzuta wrote.

“Wilson’s best weapon — and his trait that still plays today — was his deep ball. Wilson threw 16 percent of his passes 20 or more air yards as a rookie for a league-leading 0.88 EPA per play.”

C.J. Stroud (2023), Matt Ryan (2008), Cam Newton (2011), Wilson (2012), Robert Griffin III (2012) and Dak Prescott (2016) were the six quarterbacks ranked ahead of Roethlisberger. Prescott was tabbed with the best rookie season for a QB since 2000.