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Steelers Big Wheel Ben Roethlisberger

30 Jul

He’s been living smaller down in Mississippi for the past few years.

No longer commanding troops on Battlefield NFL, Brett Favre hung up his cleats for the last time after sprinting off the Vikings (Golden Gopher TCF Bank Stadium) field for the last time, December 20, 2010, after losing to intra-division rival Chicago, 40-14, and now lets his hair grow, opinionates every now & then and took up mentoring (HS coach).

But his spirit, kindred variety, lives on in the person of Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers All Pro, 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who in 2014 is set to begin his 11th NFL campaign, all in the steel city.

Kindred spirit aside, Ben won’t be setting any iron-man records like the Mississippi gun-slinger, having missed, on average, two contests each of his previous nine campaigns.

Physically, “Big Ben” is taller (6’5”) and near 20 lbs heavier than 6’2” Brett, though, Favre may be closing the gap on the latter number whilst he enjoys ‘the good life.’

Somewhat surprising to this football fan was that the 10-year tallies of both men balance out pretty close at the same points in their respective NFL journeys:

Roethlisberger           Favre
TDs:         219                       287
INTs:       122                       170
Yards:   43,105              38,627
Cmp%:    63.3                     60.9
Record: (RS):  95-47     103-54
Super Bowls:  3 (2)           2 (1)

And then there are the off-field troubles. They can color a career.

Roethlisberger and Favre are free spirits, part of what makes (made) them the favored risk-takers on the field. Sometimes they’ve gotten too spirited.

Favre went through rehabilitation in the mid-90s for a drug addiction (Vicodin) and in 2010 was fined by the NFL for impeding an investigation into allegations he’d sent offensive text-messages to Jets’ employee Jenn Sterger when he was rostered in NYC.

On Roethlisberger’s debit-ledger there’s an unlicensed motorcycle accident (‘06) and two sexual assault allegations (‘08 and ‘10) where no formal charges were filed but the 2d incident did result in a 4-game suspension to start Steelers’ 2010 season (Wikipedia).

What binds the legacies of these two decorated field generals is the immeasurable but distinctive manner in which both can / could marshal their troops onward to victory.


When these guys take to the gridiron the energy is palpable and the voltage high.

From the get-go you’ll take notice of their command & control of game-plan and then ensconce yourself in the comfy – cozy realization that winning with these guys is always a real possibility. The proof: 5 Super Bowls between ‘em and a bushel of playoff produce.

Well, almost “always.”

Of late, that “well” of winning (SBs: ‘06, 09 & 11) has been running dry in Pittsburgh.

Since 2012, Steelers have only managed to eke out consecutive 8-8, non-playoff records and, frankly, seem lucky to have even broken even. At times it got so bad it must’ve felt like, “clowns to left of me, jokers to the right,” i.e., Tomlin’s T-day flub (Stealers Wheel).

Weird-ish swings in franchise momentum aren’t unique to Southwest Pennsylvania.

New York’s Giants have been testing the patience of their fan-base since taking home two Lombardis (‘08 & ‘12) during the same Tomlin – Roethlisberger – Polamalu period.

Sometimes a club gets a bit spoiled by success, like that kid who tires of the game, runs home with his prized football and refuses to come out and play for days. Maybe not the best analogy but you get the idea. Disinterest. In Steelers’ case, ownership variety.

Of course, there are the Dallas Cowboys who have gone way beyond “spoiled” and have completely forgotten what “success” is, unless you consider their new stadium and its favored venue status a “success.” That’s great for Jerry Jones’ bank account but doesn’t amount to a hill a’ beans for faithful fandom of the Dallas Group.

But other high achievers, like New England and Green Bay, refuse to rest on their laurels and continue to pile up Ws like it’s their duty, though the Pack, excepting a few stalwarts like Hawk and Burnett, figure to keep on truckin’ without their former trademark defense. Good luck with that, Mike & Ted.

With guys like Brady and Rodgers under center, meeting “duty” was never so enjoyable.

And that’s just what a great quarterback does. He makes watching his team a joy.

It means each season, every game is hopeful. And in the end, that’s all any fan can ask for each Sunday: hope.

As he has for 10 years, Ben Roethlisberger will give Steelers fans plenty of hope in 2014.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo Credits: B.Roethlisberger / 9.9.12 / J.Beall / wc.cca / 3.9m; Roethlisberger – Ward – Obama – Rooney / 5.21.9 / EOoTP / wc.cca / 62k

Edit: 7/30 @ 3:19pm; 7/31 @ 3:07


LeBron at the Crossroads

22 Apr

“From a jack tooooo a kiiiiing.” That’s LeBron Raymone James.

Country crooner Ned Miller could’ve been foretelling the odyssey of Miami’s majestic one with the title of his ‘62 crossover hit.

From highly-touted high school phenom (Akron), to celebrated draftee (#1 ‘03), erstwhile underachiever (’07), scorned defector (MIA) and MVP totting NBA champ (’12), Le. James has finally claimed the throne so many had presaged.

Though Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, two-time titlist teammate Dwyane Wade, Finals force Chris Bosh and the rest of Miami’s squad contributed nicely to the conquest (OKC) that secured King James long-awaited coronation, generously spreading the love is not how it’s done in the sporting world.

It’s all about celebrity and there is but one crown. The team gets booty ($) and medals (rings) while the Finals MVP gets a well-deserved scepter and steady-stream of adoration.

But before his Highness gets too comfy in his royal state he should be aware he faces yet another crossroad in his storied and oh-so scrutinized career.

Unlike previous junctures (college vs. NBA, Miami or Cleveland), this intersection is not of his own choosing and the landing-spots not entirely within his control.

The destinations: a little hamlet know as ‘Greatness’ (Pop. 21), and the other, a terrific town that all too rarely topped America‘s ‘Best Basketball Place’ called ‘Wilt City.’

If James can lead his Heat to a repeat feat in taking another Larry O’Brien Trophy he’ll be in the driver’s seat cruising down Legacy Lane and headed straight for Greatness.

Back-to-backs mean dynasty and that would put LeBron and his Heat teammates in select company, a rarified-air few in this current NBA have inhaled, with team president Pat Riley and a handful of current Spurs & Lakers being among the lucky.

And another title is looking better-than-fair for favored MIA, having secured PS home-court with NBA’s top tally (65-16), set 2nd longest win-streak in NBA history (27), showcasing the 2012 MVP, exude a confidence that “super-abounds” after last year’s break-through win and face a field of competition that hardly sends shivers down one’s spine.

But LeBron’s got “miles to go” before he can buy that beachfront lot in Greatness.

With just one title in tow nobody, not even LRJ, can be sure which guy will show up in these playoffs: the hard-driving, post-season MVP of 2012 or the fade-away fella who saw Dirk Nowitzki take him and his Heat to school in 2011. The precedent here’s open to interpretation (a bit murky).

These Knicks are smoother (‘12) but Celtics are a tough draw, Bulls a darkhorse and Heat top the East. In the West, Clippers seek their first Final since birth (Buffalo), Grizzlies the darkhorse and until Westbrook (and Rondo) plays to his position (OKC) and Spurs time-travel back (age), both clubs will need all the stars in alignment to reach Finals ‘13.

If the Heat by chance drop the ball these playoffs, detouring from Greatness, watch as the Wilt Chamberlain comparisons begin for LeBron in earnest.

“Stilt” was the most talented player in the history of b-ball and did not lack for toughness, but the gold standard is the ring count, an item Chamberlain conceded far too frequently to nemesis Bill Russell and the Celtics.

If the Heat do win BTBs and forge dynasty, something Wilt & Co. never did (PHI / LAL), will that put King James on the Emperor’s throne as the greatest all-time (“GAT“)? Many a writer are today preparing to make just such a claim on LRJ in anticipation.

But not this scribbler. That the Heat will hoist another O’Brien in 2013 is a pretty good guess. James going GAT? That‘s a whole ‘nother conversation.

While the NBA gold standard is measured in championship metallica, it is weighted by it’s karat-count, competition.

Neither LeBron, nor Jordan for that matter, faced Finals foes the likes of Russell, Elgin, Oscar, Wilt or West, Willis, Walton or Jabbar, Larry, Julius, Moses or prime Magic.

MVPs glitter, scoring titles carry cachet, All-Defensive teams show substance, All-Star accolades are cute costume jewelry and who you beat matters BIG time.

And the ‘BIG matters’ Heat could face this PS: Kobe & Dirk are out, Duncan, Pierce & Garnett will be present while Nash & Parker are <100%; rising stars Rose (out), Durant, Randolph, Anthony, Harden, Howard, Paul, Griffin, J. Smith, George, Deron, Westbrook, Rondo, Amar‘e, Curry and Noah have more to prove before they add to the karat count.

Might there come a day when LeBron is referred to as ‘the greatest?’ He already is in some circles. But consider that those are the same folks that when the next highly-hyped star comes down the pike they’ll be calling that guy ‘the greatest’ first chance they get.

Because of the competition-gap, because of his ‘Johnny come lately’ status in the title category (Y10) and the orchestration employed to fashion his Miami championship melody that left more than a few people miffed, it’s doubtful James will ever overtake the names Magic, Russell or Chamberlain when historians rank the best ever.

In his favor is the man’s age, still a youngish 28 (12-30). Amazing. If he avoids the serious injury bug, can cajole ownership to keep investing, stay hungry and play another ten years, those MVPs should keep coming and with no other player today under-30 who plays to his caliber, more titles should be had.

The big question: Does LeBron James even care about GAT? Maybe not. He probably needs one, maybe two more titles to feel fully validated but with all the fame, fortune and accolades he’ll have accumulated he might just decide to hang ‘em up at 35 and leave the rest to fans & media to sort out.

Whether or not LeBron James ever dons ‘greatest all-time’ regalia, there’s no doubt he’s ready to set down roots in that exclusive community know as Greatness. It’s a place fit for a king.

Steven Keys

Nothing But Net

Photo Credit: LeBron James / / “Cesar” / 3-30-11