I come to bury Ben Roethlisberger, not to Rumph him.
In the second snap of the Steelers' Week 2 loss against Jacksonville, Ben Roethlisberger completed an 8-yard pass to Heath Miller, whereupon Joe Theeeeessssman declared the quarterback to be "back" much in the same way he would the following week about the city of New Orleans. That's when Steeler
Nation Country Anarcho-Syndicalist State Protectorate fans knew everything was fucked.
Everyone wants to blame the motorcycle crash, the appendectomy, or the maladies and organ failures we don't even know about yet and I'm sure all that has playing a sizeable role in his struggles. Pinning it all on that, though, is either to be facile or an apologist. Another suggestion, usually made by the haters (Caveman) is that Ben is an effective game manager who has been exposed now that he's being called on to do more for the team and his strong O-line and support system have let him down.
As for the "game manager" charge: no shit. He's a quarterback for the Steelers. There's no chicken-or-the-egg in Cowher's system, the run sets up the pass. As a quarterback, you're asked to get a lead and not make any costly mistakes that would make it harder for the defense to protect it. One could make the argument that because the age of the vertical passing game is behind us, every quarterback in the league, from Peyton to Vick, is a game manager to some extent. Not too many quarterbacks are able, much less allowed, to consistently drop back and try to win the game on their own.
The rest of the argument is flawed on two counts: first, it overstates the role of Bettis and Randle El in the offense. It suggest some change in the O-line that hasn't happened. Pass blocking has never been their forte. Ben creates time by moving around the pocket, and he's no less mobile this year than in the pass but seems hesitant to run downfield when coverage is tight and there's an opening to take off. The special teams and goal line offense has suffered with these departures but the overall offensive gameplanning hasn't changed. Willie Parker is having a fine year, so it's not like this is 2003 with Amos Zereoue where they have to abandon the running game. And, secondly, it would be one thing if defenses were keying on routes or receivers that he frequently targets. Rather, Ben is making uncharacteristically bad reads, frequently under little pressure and looks afraid to take some hits (he isn't running even when he has the chance - he looked downright terrified on the second pick Sunday, with a rusher coming at him he jumped backwards and basically chucked the ball straight up in the air to a defender with no one within 10 yards of him - this makes O'Donnell smile).
Granted, Ben has proven himself prone to the occasional devastating brain[cramp] over the years. Although still a rookie, he served up a nice fat one for Rodney Harrison to essentially lose the 2004 AFC Championship late in the first half when they still had a fighting chance. His running touchdown notwithstanding, he was the Seahawks conspiracy theorists best friend during the Super Bowl. Without his inexplicably terribly underthown pick in the endzone, the score is 21-3 midway through the third quarter, the game is pretty much over and the 12 Seahawks fans would be forced to shitcan their whine harvest for the year.
I know, let's do another vacuous analyst exercise and project Ben's final stats based on his first three starts:
510 Att 275 Com 2845 Yds 53.9% 0 TDs 35 INTs
Ooooooh...35 picks? Does that elevate him to gunslinger status? He does have as many rings as Favre. He's way behind on the substance abuse but he shows remarkable potential on that front.