PITTSBURGH -- Asked to name the last rookie quarterback who
impressed him as much as the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells immediately dropped a name familiar to
"He is the best (quarterback) prospect I have seen in 10 or 15
years," Parcells said Wednesday during a conference call. "I have
not seen anybody come in the league like that. The only guy that I
can say came in, and the first year started playing like he is
playing, is Dan Marino."
The Steelers, then on the downslide following their Super Bowl
successes of the 1970s, regretted for years not drafting Marino, a
local college star, in 1983. Partly because of that decision, they
never did find a comparable replacement for Hall of Fame
quarterback Terry Bradshaw, winning only two playoff games from
1980 through 1993.
Parcells doesn't think the Steelers will ever regret taking
Roethlisberger, who is 3-0 as a starter since replacing the injured
Tommy Maddox. The Steelers (4-1) play at Dallas (2-2) on Sunday.
Roethlisberger enjoyed one of the best all-around games in years
by a Steelers quarterback Sunday, throwing for a touchdown, running
for another while constantly keeping Cleveland's defense
off-balance with his scrambling in a 34-23 victory.
"He is out of the pocket throwing 50-yard passes right on the
money," Parcells said. "It is not going to be without growing
pains, but I think he is in an ideal situation. They have good
balance on offense. They are running the ball well. They have a
good receiving corps. ... I am telling you, I am very, very
impressed, and it is not just because he is an opponent."
Roethlisberger respectfully accepted the praise but detected a
veteran coach employing some pregame psychological trickery.
"He's been around for a long time. He knows what he's doing. He
has no problem putting those (comments) out there and trying to get
inside someone's head," Roethlisberger said. "So I've just got to
go and play my game and, hopefully, win the football game."
As for any comparison to Marino, Roethlisberger said that should
wait for, oh, another 15 years or so. Marino threw for 61,361 yards
during his 17-season NFL career, or nearly 10,000 yards more than
any other quarterback in league history.
"Obviously, it's quite a compliment coming from Coach
Parcells," Roethlisberger said. "Being a guy who's been around a
long time, he knows talent. But if I've said it once I've said it a
million times, it's only been three games. It's a little too early
to be putting those statements on it.
"If I can be half as good as Marino, I'll be incredibly
Roethlisberger is only the fourth non-replacement rookie
quarterback since the NFL merger in 1970 to win his first three NFL
starts. He has enjoyed a far better debut than the last Steelers
first-round quarterback to start as a rookie -- Bradshaw, who had
only six touchdown passes and 24 interceptions in 1970.
Now, Roethlisberger will try to do what no Steelers quarterback
since Bradshaw has done by winning in Dallas. The Steelers are 0-2
there since the Bradshaw-led Steelers won their 1982 opener there
36-28 on a Monday night, Gary Anderson's first game as their
Roethlisberger expects to see a lot more blitzing from the
Cowboys than he got from the Browns, who blitzed him only a
half-dozen times and instead waited for him to make mistakes.
"You never know exactly what you're going to face, but we've
seen some things where they probably will bring some all-out
blitzes at us and try to use their secondary (to make plays),"
Roethlisberger said. "It definitely will be a challenge."