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How Much Longer Can Big Ben Stand?

It's a strange question to ask. Since Ben Roethlisberger took over as the starting quarterback from Tommy Maddox in 2004, the Steelers have averaged 11 regular season wins per year, and have won 2 Super-Bowl titles. This season they are two uncharacteristically sloppy 4th quarters away from a perfect 7-0 start heading into their bye week. At age 27 and just entering what should be his prime, Roethlisberger already has a career QB rating of 90.9 (8th all time). This season he is 2nd in passing yards (2062), 2nd in completion percentage (70.4), and 5th in QB ratings (102.6). No reason for Steelers fans to think that Ben can't last for at least another 8-10 years right? Right?

But perhaps the most fascinating number to statistically associated with Ben Roethlisberger is 212, for that is the number of times over the course of his career that he has been sacked. A staggering number, made all the more alarming when you consider that in the last 3.5 seasons alone that number is 159. To put this in better perspective consider the sack totals of Steve Young from 1991 to 1999 as the starter for the 49ers, and compare them with Roethlisberger's career to date.




SACKSGAMESAVERAGE
Steve Young2541152.21
Roethlisberger212792.68

For those of you who remember, Young suffered from post-concussion syndrome and was forced to retire. Some say that Young brought this upon himself with his penchant for scrambling outside of the pocket. Others choose to blame an offensive line that was practically beat before Young could finish saying “hike”. Extrapolate the above table over the course of a 16 game season and you have nearly an 8 sack difference between the two. The numbers becomes even more pronounced when you remember that Young played in an offense (West Coast) which emphasized the passing game much more than the Steelers traditional run based offense. Consider also that in the above time-frame, Young attempted 3324 passes, divide that by the aforementioned sack totals and you have a ratio of 1 sack for every 13.1 passes attempted. Roethlisberger by comparison has attempted 2138 passes in his career for an average of 1 sack for every 10.1 passes. In the brutal AFC North those extra hits take on extra levels of hurt when delivered by the likes of Ray Lewis or Terrell Suggs.

Though at 6’5”and roughly 250 pounds maybe it doesn’t matter how much Big Ben gets hit. Maybe 8 years from now he’ll still be leading the Steelers to the playoffs, and possibly to more Super Bowls. Still all the while knocking heads with the meanest, ugliest Linebackers and Defensive Ends the league has to offer. But maybe, just maybe, Steelers fans should prepare for the possibility of an end that will come sooner than expected.

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