Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Legacy, record book forever link draft mates Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning

Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff Writer 30, 2016

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PITTSBURGH -- The quarterback triumvirate of John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino from the 1983 draft might never be touched.
Ben Roethlisberger isn't about to say his 2004 class rivals it.
But the fact Roethlisberger and Eli Manning can small-talk over their combined four Super Bowl rings before Sunday's matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants gives Big Ben reason to feel good about his class' legacy.
"Hopefully when our class is done, we'll have some Hall of Famers, too,"Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday for his weekly appearance. "There's a definite mutual respect. You kind of get excited when the other guy does well, as long as it's not against us."
Roethlisberger and Manning will face off as one of three pairs from the same draft class that won at least one Super Bowl each. The others are Joe Montana and Phil Simms from 1979 and Jim Plunkett and Joe Theismann in 1971.
Class member Philip Rivers hasn't joined that group, but his 304 career touchdown passes are eighth in NFL history and nine scores ahead of Roethlisberger, who's 10th all time. Manning tops both players with 314 scores, good enough for seventh place.
The quarterbacks have probably heard the term 'second tier' for at least parts of their career. Tom Brady and Aaron typically earn the most cachet points in recent years, despite Roethlisberger's mid-30s resurgence.
But the 137,404 passing yards among the 2004 trio are enough to fill about three draft classes.
"We'll always be linked together," Roethlisberger said.
And Roethlisberger has another head-to-head opportunity to state his case for the best of the class. Though Manning edges Roethlisberger in overall yards and scores, Roethlisberger has played 15 less games than Manning. Based on per-game average, Roethlisberger's 1.63 touchdowns and 252.7 yards per game are higher than Manning's 1.60 and 240.3.
After years of playing for a team known more for its defense, Roethlisberger's passing prowess has come to the forefront in recent seasons.
On draft night, Roethlisberger was led to believe the Giants were ready to take him. The Rivers-Manning trade complicated things. Couple that dynamic with the Cleveland Browns passing on him at No. 6 and Roethlisberger has plenty of nostalgia to fuel him.
But Roethlisberger has maintained getting the next win trumps settling scores.
Winning a third Super Bowl would make Roethlisberger the undisputed victor in this class, if he's not already.

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