The Steelers’ shocking 48-37 AFC wild-card playoff loss to the Browns on Sunday night could be attributed to many lapses, but the most obvious was Ben Roethlisberger. The Steeler’s first possession that turned into a gift touchdown for Cleveland wasn’t Roethlisberger’s fault; it was Maurkice Pouncey‘s bad snap. However, the second possession resulted in a Big Ben interception due to desperation, and he followed it with two more within the opening 20 minutes. The final score wasn’t indicative of how uncompetitive this game really was.
So what makes someone a Pro Football Hall of Famer? Is it Super Bowl victories? Is it about stats? Is it about how a player compares to their contemporaries?
Well, Matt Ryan‘s statistics aren’t the problem. He ranks 9th all-time in passing yards, higher than Jim Kelly and Steve Young. Ryan ranks 10th in all-time touchdowns, more than Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon, and John Elway. His 13th ranked passer rating is higher than Joe Montana and Kurt Warner. And his 9th ranked completion percentage is higher than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady. But what about a direct comparison to Big Ben?
Ben Roethlisberger (233 games): 64.4 comp% 60,348 yards 396 TD 201 INT 94.0 rating
Matt Ryan (205 games): 65.4 comp% 55,767 yards 347 TD 158 INT 94.5 rating
One is seen as a HOF lock while the other is not simply because the former played for one of the NFL's legacy franchises.
— Matt Karoly (@mattkaroly) January 11, 2021
So if it isn’t the statistics, it has to be the Super Bowl variable. Big Ben has won two, while Ryan has yet to win one. In the Super Bowl era, only five quarterbacks have been enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame without winning a championship: Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Warren Moon, and Fran Tarkenton. But Super Bowls are a team statistic and shouldn’t be the driving factor in the Hall of Fame argument.
To entertain the idea, let’s see who performed better in their Super Bowl. Roethlisberger’s three appearances resulted in passer ratings of 22.6, 93.2, and 77.4 — in chronological order — and Ryan’s 144.1 passer rating in his lone Super Bowl appearance.
2005- 9/21, 123 yards, 2 interceptions, 22.6 passer rating;
2008- 21/30, 256 yards, 1 touchdown/ 1 interception, 93.2 passer rating;
2010- 25/40, 263 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 77.4 passer rating
2016- 17/23, 284 yards, 2 touchdowns, 144.1 passer rating
The Super Bowl loss is clearly what critics are attached to, but it has to be more than that because there have been quarterbacks enshrined in Canton without Super Bowls. Even the great Dan Marino only played in one Super Bowl where he threw for 318 yards on 29-50 passing with 1 TD and 2 interceptions. There must be a stigma surrounding Ryan due to the epic comeback loss in his appearance.
Individual awards are more suggestive of a player’s success, in my opinion. Ryan has four pro-bowl selections and one All-Pro appearance, while Roethlisberger has been selected to the pro-bowl six times with no All-Pro appearances. In Ryan’s Super Bowl year, he won the league MVP — Roethlisberger has never received an MVP vote.
I’m not arguing for a first-ballot Hall of Famer because neither of these quarterbacks is worthy of that honor. I am arguing with the national media about why it is already assumed Matt Ryan isn’t a Hall of Famer. If that is true, then Big Ben should be categorized in the same manner. These statistics are cumulative of their careers, where Roethlisberger is at the tail end of his, and Ryan is still capable of playing a few more years. Obviously, the committee considers a candidate’s career, so Ryan still has time to add to his already deserving resumé.