Commentary

Would third ring equal Big Ben to Brady?

Steelers QB and Patriots signal-caller are very different but yield similar results

Updated: February 5, 2011, 3:26 AM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

DALLAS -- When coaches, players, scouts and analysts here at the Super Bowl were asked to compare New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the response was almost universal: Different styles but they produce similar results.

And in the end, those winning results are all that matter.

That's why they believe putting Brady and Roethlisberger in the same sentence is in-bounds -- assuming Roethlisberger wins his third Super Bowl championship Sunday to join Brady, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win at least three Super Bowls.

In the case of Roethlisberger vs. Brady, perhaps Mark Malone of CBS Radio and Westwood One put it best.

[+] Enlarge Ben Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyIf Big Ben wins his third Super Bowl ring on Sunday, many believe he can be discussed in the same vein as Tom Brady.

"Genetically, they are almost polar opposites of each other; there is a big contrast there," he said. "But I think what it tells you is there are different ways to get to the ultimate goal and win that Vince Lombardi trophy."

Those thoughts were echoed by longtime coach Dick Vermeil.

"The end result of what they do is the same, how they do it is different," said Vermeil, the Super Bowl-winning St. Louis Rams coach who was in town to promote Vermeil Wines. "Brady is more the pure drop-back, set in the pocket, take advantage of your protection and throw the ball -- accurately. Roethlisberger is more of a fullback at the quarterback spot. He'll scramble around, get outside and wing it. It's a gift because it's hard to get him down. Brady is more of a target.

"That's the main difference, but the end result -- when the ball leaves their hand, it normally goes to the right place and the right guy."

Because of that, Vermeil thinks it's fair to put the two in the same sentence should Roethlisberger lead the Steelers to victory Sunday.

"You have to," he said. "It's like taking two great sprinters and they end up running the same time, they're equally fast."

Derrick Brooks, who played linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 14 seasons and was voted to 11 Pro Bowls, also sees the link between Brady and Roethlisberger.

"In terms of wins and losses, you have to put them together," said Brooks, who worked Super Bowl week as an analyst on Sirius NFL Radio. "Ben admits that playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, his stats will never be the same, and that's for obvious reasons. Also, it's hard for a quarterback to overcome the reputation of the defense in Pittsburgh.

"Everyone realizes their differences. Ben is not going to come out and throw the ball 50 times. It's not going to be spread out, wide open, like Tom. Ben has to create plays the way he does now, with his body and athleticism. Tom creates plays differently, and there is nothing wrong with either approach. They both work."

Malone expounded on those thoughts.

"Let's start with the philosophies that both teams hold dear. For decades, it's been part of Pittsburgh's DNA to play physical defense, to run the football and ask their quarterbacks to complement that. Ben does that to a very high degree," he said. "I don't think that's a team where Ben is going to throw for 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, but it doesn't matter. I think Ben's approach to that has been very good because he's basically said, 'I'm not going to win league MVPs or passing titles, but it's about Super Bowls.'

"Tom, on the other hand, his ability to escape out of the pocket isn't as good as Ben's, but his decision-making is so good. He is such a bright guy and does such a great job of preparing, and he's so very accurate, and they put players around him in a system that allows him to get rid of the football because I think they've lacked a little bit in the running game. So they find ways to manufacture yards in the passing game in place of the running game, and Tom does a great job with that."

Former St. Louis Rams vice president of player personnel Tony Softli sees it the same way.

"I would definitely put Ben in that conversation, anybody that wins three Super Bowls," said Softli, who now works for ESPN 101 Radio in St. Louis. "Tom did it and he's an outstanding quarterback, one of the best who ever played the game, if not the best. I would think you'd have to put Roethlisberger in that category [if he wins a third], even though their styles are different. Tom is more of a pocket guy, where Ben has guys hanging off him, sandlot-playing and throwing the ball, extending the play outside of the pocket.

"In the end, regardless of style, both of those guys are outstanding."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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