Why Ben Roethlisberger is going to win the NFL MVP
Written by Curt Popejoy on 07/01/2012
It seems like in recent years when discussing the NFL MVP, it's sort of like talking about NASCAR. The same handful of guys every week. 4 of the last 5 awards have gone to either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, with Aaron Rogers winning it most recently. This year, I fully expect it to be Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, with maybe some Drew Brees and Peyton Manning sprinkled in with a touch of Cam Newton on the side. But I will make the case for another quarterback. A quarterback who has won 2 Super Bowls and has just turned 30, hitting the prime of his career. That's right folks, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is going to win this season's NFL MVP Award.
I am rarely a "root for the player" kind of guy. I take plenty of heat from fellow Steelers fans because I always say I root for the jersey, not the name on the back. I expect the team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl every year, but I rarely make much in the way of predicitions about the players. That's because in most cases the Steelers win ugly. But this year with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley and a depth chart of skill players brimming with talent, this is Big Ben's year to shine.
Up until now, Ben's best statistical season was 2009 when he threw for an impressive 4,328 yards and 26 touchdowns. A very good season for sure, but I expect much more out of Ben this season, and it's based on 3 key factors.
First is the Haley effect. Todd Haley takes over an offense that suffered from inconsistency and a lack of a dynamic element, especially when it came to scoring points last season. They were able to win 12 games by in large due to a top ranked defense, which ironically let them down in the playoffs. Haley is going to bring an offensive philosophy that the Steelers should remember when Haley was the OC for the Arizona Cardinals. In 2008 the Cardinals scored nearly 27 points per game and gained just over 365 yards of offense per week. Say what you will about Haley's failings as a head coach, but when he was given the controls of that Cardinals offense they could move the football at will and came very close to beating a dominant Steelers defense in the Super Bowl.
Second reason is the players are in place. In recent seasons the Steelers have been able to win by running when they want, and pass it when they need to. The run game has been there to set up the pass and it's worked. But this year, with starting running back Rashard Mendenhall's season in jeaopardy and the depth a question, the passing game is going to have to carry the load. And carry it he can. Don't get me wrong. I think Isaac Redman is a nice player. But I'm not at all convinced that he can be the focus of the run game and the players behind him are untested.
Twice in Ben's career he's topped 500 attempts and 4,000 yards passing and in both those seasons he missed 1 start. He's got all the arm and all the smarts of any top tier quarterback in the league, but I've always felt like he's been reigned in by average offensive line play and a run first mentality. This year Ben is going to have maybe the best offensive line he's every had in his career and a green light to throw the football.
And when you talk about who he's throwing to, there might not be a team that top to bottom has more weapons than the Steelers. Ben's top 2 targets last season Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown combined for numbers North of 140 catches and 2,300 yards along with 10 touchdowns. Moving down the depth chart you get tight end Heath
Miller who's almost always been underused for the sake of the run game. Another small factor that should figure into an increase in Miller's numbers is the retirement of Hines Ward. Those targets will go to him along with veteran Jerricho Cotchery and young talent Emmanuel Sanders.
Those 5 players would be enough, but wait there's more. The Steelers rarely targeted the running backs last season with no back catching more than 18 passes. This year, the Steelers were able to add rookie Chris Rainey, a hybrid sort of RB/WR who will make a fabulous target out of the backfield for Ben.
The final reason is, he may not have a choice. Whether or not Haley was in charge or it was still Bruce Arians, and whether or not they were loaded with weapons or just had the minimum, this is Ben's team this year in a way it never has been. When Ben has been called upon to improvise and make the big play, he delivers. For this team to be successful, this team has to allow him to make more plays and more plays when times aren't desparate. Last season's MVP Aaron Rodgers threw for just north of 4,600 yards and a remarkable 45 touchdowns. The second number is what made him the MVP. And that's where I think this year we will all see a huge improvement in Ben's game. And I have no doubt the MVP award is well within his reach.
Last Edited: 07/01/2012