Bill Cowher’s Hall of Fame career will be encapsulated in a weekend in Canton in a mere few weeks. However, perhaps what allowed for his induction to be even considered was when he capped off an already impressive career with a Super Bowl ring in the 2005 season. The quarterback for that team, Ben Roethlisberger, is still going at it.
As the coach that drafted Roethlisberger, Cowher remembers what Roethlisberger brought to the table during his younger years in the NFL that allowed them to reach the apex of the NFL. In fact, the plan was to sit Roethlisberger for a while, but injuries changed Cowher’s plans on a dime.
“My idea with Ben was, you know Phillip Rivers can start from day one, Eli Manning can start from day one. They came from big-time programs,” Cowher said. “Ben played in the MAC, so I thought this is a great situation. We have Tommy Maddox to start and also Charlie Batch to backup, so he can be the third-stringer.”
However, as Cowher noted, early-season injuries buckled those plans and forced Roethlisberger into the spotlight much earlier than he even anticipated.
“As it unfolds, Charlie Batch gets hurt in the third preseason game and won’t be ready until the fourth game of the season,” Cowher said. “Okay, then Tommy goes down in week two. Now, ahead of Eli and ahead of Phillip Rivers, the guy who I thought was supposed to sit for a while was now starting.”
Cowher knew Roethlisberger was slightly raw and the Steelers had him ‘game manage’ at times to start out, but as he grew Cowher saw special qualities in Roethlisberger. Those are the qualities that Cowher thinks have made Roethlisberger a future Hall of Famer in his own right.
“He could feel the game better than anybody,” Cowher said. “He was never afraid to make tough throws. It was never too big for him. He is a great competitor. And I’m sure he is just thriving right now off the fact that everyone thinks he is done.”
With those qualities, Cowher believes Roethlisberger is ready to prove everyone wrong about himself and the Steelers in 2021.
“I would be very surprised if he didn’t have a great year this year,” Cowher said. “And so as I said, it’s a tough division, he’s a Hall of Fame player, first-ballot, he’s won two Super Bowls and been to three, and yet he continues to play the game with great passion.”