Rodgers, Roethlisberger have something to prove in Super Bowl

Posted: February 06, 2011

DALLAS - If you want to know how different Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are, run a Google image search.

The first picture of Roethlisberger that pops up is of the Steelers quarterback with his arms around two women. He's wearing a T-shirt that reads, "Drink Like a Champion Today."

Rodgers also has his arm around somebody - a laughing Brett Favre, during Rodgers' rookie season.

A victory in Sunday's Super Bowl XLV between the Steelers and Packers at Cowboys Stadium will distance both from those popular story lines - Roethlisberger as the party-going womanizer and Rodgers playing in the shadow of Favre's Packers legacy.

Roethlisberger needs one more title to become just the fifth quarterback to win three or more Lombardi Trophies.

A Super Bowl title would put Rodgers on a level playing field with Favre, who won a Super Bowl in his sixth season but never again. Rodgers is also in his sixth season, but he sat for three years behind the future Hall of Famer in the much-chronicled starter-backup drama.

Many have predicted Super Bowls for the 27-year-old Rodgers, but he has yet to deliver - a point slyly made by Roethlisberger when he was asked during media day last week about predicting how good Rodgers would become.

"I'm pretty good, aren't I?" Roethlisberger said. "I might have a gig at ESPN as an analyst or something like that after that, right? No, I've known it. I've always known that he's a great player, a great person, a great quarterback."

But Roethlisberger, despite his aesthetically unpleasing style and some off-the-field issues, is the one with the two rings. There was some question eight months ago if he'd even have the chance to get No. 3.

Ben's blunders

Since the Steelers picked him in the first round of the 2004 draft, Roethlisberger has been involved in three incidents. First, there was the motorcycle accident before the 2006 season in which he nearly died when he ruptured a blood vessel in his mouth.

Three years later he was accused of assaulting a woman in Lake Tahoe the year prior, but the charges were eventually dropped. The following year Roethlisberger was again at the center of sexual-assault allegations. Police, though, eventually deemed that there was not enough evidence to charge the quarterback.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, however, decided that there was enough there to suspend Roethlisberger for the first six games of the season. The suspension was eventually cut to four games.

During the investigation some had opined that Roethlisberger deserved to be kicked out of football.

"I love playing this game," Roethlisberger said. "I think every player wants to walk out on their own terms."

The Steelers, though, stood behind the 28-year-old.

"At that point, I think my statement was, 'We don't support or condone any behavior that is not conducive to what the Steelers believe in. But we also support the opportunity for that player to make right on the situation,' " Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said.

When Roethlisberger finally returned it was as if he hadn't missed a beat. The Steelers finished 12-4 and won yet another AFC North crown. It wasn't always pretty - he calls his style "backyard ball" - but they eked past the Ravens and the Jets in the playoffs and are now poised to win their third title in six seasons.

"Ben's a winner, and that's the bottom line," Colbert said. "He may be 15 of 21 for 180 yards, but he is making two plays that win the game."

If Roethlisberger and the Steelers win Sunday, the organization will pad its record-setting mark of seven Super Bowls. And he will join Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks with three or more titles. Some are saying that a victory would also put him into the conversation with Brady and Peyton Manning as the best active quarterbacks.

He doesn't agree.

"It's my way of keeping me as the underdog," Roethlisberger said. "It drives Coach Tomlin crazy because he wants me to put myself in that category. I guess I like being the hunter, not the hunted."

He may not come out and say it, but Roethlisberger is chasing after Bradshaw's mark of four Lombardis. The two have had a contentious relationship, but they smoothed over some of their differences this last week.

"Terry is the guy when I got to the Steelers," Roethlisberger said. "You know about him. When you get here it's about four Super Bowls. . . . I've always said since Day One, I'm not trying to be Terry Bradshaw."

Aaron and Brett

Like Roethlisberger, Rodgers has had to follow in the footsteps of a champion. Of course, his task was probably a more daunting one because he was Favre's immediate replacement.

Favre is a god-like figure in Wisconsin. There were the obvious successes, but his swashbuckling ways endeared him to the Packers fan base. After the 2007 season and a loss in the NFC championship, though, Favre announced his retirement and Rodgers was finally given his chance to start.

But Favre unretired for the first of several times and the Packers were in damage control as a large portion of the fan base wanted Favre back.

"I think a lot of people probably doubted him," Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said. "When all the things were going up and down the roller-coaster with Brett, I just think to a point where Aaron was a better man than most people would've handled it."

Favre was eventually traded to the Jets, but Rodgers had some big cleats to fill and fans let him know it as Green Bay went 6-10 in his first season.

"It was a difficult situation," Rodgers said. "It was tough to stand up every day in front of the media not knowing what questions were coming at me and how the fans were going to react that day in practice."

Rodgers, as the story goes, has dealt with many doubts over his career. He was not recruited out of high school in Chico, Calif., and instead enrolled at Butte Community College. After a wildly successful freshman season, California discovered him and he was allowed to transfer because of his high GPA.

At Cal, he blossomed and entered the draft as a sure top 10 pick - or so many thought.

"We didn't spend a lot of time on Aaron up until the week or 10 days before the draft because we'd always assumed that he was going to go pretty high," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. "Then the rumors started flying that he might be dropping."

The Packers selected him with the 24th overall pick, but he sat for three seasons. When he finally got the starting job, he had all the tools and put up outstanding numbers, but there was still something missing.

"If there was one big hurdle," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, "it would be leadership."

The Packers made the playoffs last season but lost in the first round. This season, though, Rodgers willed Green Bay into the postseason with a late charge and swept the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears - all on the road - to get to his first Super Bowl.

Rodgers and Roethlisberger, different men, forged dissimilar paths to Super Bowl XLV. But on Sunday they will be compared against one other. Asked who was the better quarterback, Rodgers said, "I don't make those decisions or answers. I'll let you figure that out."

Maybe Google will help.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane

 

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