Steelers passed on Marino in draft

Updated: October 13, 2004, 8:02 PM ET
Associated Press

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 most Pittsburghers.

Ben Roethlisberger
Quarterback
Pittsburgh Steelers
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp PaTD RuTD Int Rat
88 57 5 1 4 91.3

Dan Marino.

"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 happy."

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 kicker.

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."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press