Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Making The Case For Ben Roethlisberger As MVP; Tomlin Coolest Coach

Ask any member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, any member of the media or any Steelers fan and you'll get the same answer as to whom the Steelers mid-season most valuable player is. There's no question: Ben Roethlisberger.

The position of NFL quarterback is the hardest in sports at which to excel. So much goes into just being a successful quarterback, let alone one who is a multiple Super Bowl winner.

This year, there is another trophy the Steelers quarterback should add to his mantle: NFL MVP.

Remember, the award is for the most valuable player. I believe that the evidence points to his being a viable candidate for the 2012 version of the award.

In If It Ain't Steel's mid-season's reports and predictions blog post, we said that Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons has to be the mid-season MVP and that our belief is that the Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning would probably be the season MVP. We also, however, said that Big Ben was definitely in the discussion. We decided to start the campaign for that right here.

The first thing to consider, naturally, is whether or not his numbers are on par with the other quarterbacks who may be in the MVP discussion. The answer is a resounding yes.

Big Ben is currently ranked 5th in the NFL in passing with a .671 completion percentage (200-298, or an average of 25-37) for 2,203 yards, 16 touchdown passes, only four interceptions and a 101.1 QB rating.

To properly measure him against the four quarterbacks ahead of him, we have to set certain parameters in order to have a level playing field. We'll set them to at least 290 pass attempts and at least 260 yards per game (YPG) from the top quarterbacks.

That leaves Big Ben with three other QBs who could keep him from bringing the award to the South Side: Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton. Of those four QBs, Big Ben has the fewest interceptions (4) and is right in the mix in completion percentage (comp. pct.) and the other criteria that a QB must meet.

Over his career, Big Ben's comp. pct. has hovered around 63%, but has been much more statistically reliable this season. Where Big Ben separates himself, though, is on third down percentage and and when under duress. Not one of the above QBs even comes close to him in those two categories.

Big Ben has been nothing short of excellent on third down. He leads all NFL QBs in ESPN's Total QBR grading scale at over 97.0 this season, 121.2 in the NFL QB rating. On that key down, he has thrown seven TD passes against no interceptions.

Last sunday against the New York Giants was no different as he was 8-9 for 89 yards on third to six different receivers, including a 51-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace.

When under duress or when hit while throwing, Big Ben is also tops with a comp. pct. of over 56%, including three touchdowns (55.9% and eight TDs total over the last two seasons). He's also the best against Nickel and Dime coverages, completing over 72% of his passes.

Big Ben also excels inside the 20-yard line. Per ESPN's Total QBR again, he's top three in the league at 94.4 in the red zone. Not to mention the fact that up until the last three weeks he'd been doing all of this without the semblance of a running game.

Do you really need more convincing that Big Ben should be on the short list of MVP candidates? He is far and away the most valuable player on a winning team that's starting to coalesce as it head toward the playoffs. Like the gentlemen at so aptly pointed out, despite all of this, for some fans it's never enough. -

If you're one of those, and if my word isn't enough, consider what Greg Cosell of NFL's Inside The Game had to say about Big Ben before the season even started.

In the article "Cosell Talks: Re-Examining Roethlisberger", he presents a third-and-8 play from 2008 against the Jacksonville Jaguars where "he had defenders hanging all over him and was still able to deliver an accurate throw to Hines Ward" late in the game. The play was a microcosm of what Big Ben has routinely done over his career. -

Nothing has changed this season. He's still making defenders miss, he's still shrugging off pass rushers and he's still confounding defensive coordinators with "sandlot" plays where he improvises like no other QB in the league today can.

Even the great Tom Brady narrowly misses the top five QB rankings, sitting currently in the No. 6 spot, making he and Big Ben neck-and-neck. As columnist Jeremy Lundblad pointed out in an article written right before Super Bowl 45, they actually always have been. -

With all this being considered, one main reason for Big Ben's elevated success has been the time he's had to be able to get his passes off. Thanks, in part, to a rejuvenated offensive line that is paving the way. -

During the offseason, and occasionally since, Big Ben provided several sound bites regarding new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's playbook. The most famous being the "Rosetta Stone" reference.

The Rosetta Stone turns out to be an appropriate term as it has translated into three straight wins, taking the Steelers to 5-3.

On Wednesday, Big Ben gave the credit for this to Haley's streamlining the playbook. He said that they've been going with the plays that they know work, choosing order over confusion.

"We've always felt we've got deep-play guys," said Big Ben, "but as we saw the other night, we can also get it to them quick and let them go the distance....It's demoralizing for defenses."

So is what it has allowed him to do to Steelers' opponents this season. What he'll certainly be able to continue to do this season. An MVP season.


Ask any Steelers fan and they'll tell you that Mike Tomlin is the coolest coach in the NFL.

It seems the rest of the NFL has caught on. Overwhelmingly so.

In a Sporting News player poll of over 100 NFL players, Tomlin's was voted the coach for whom players most wanted to play. -

But, we already knew he was the coolest...