Big Ben ready to strike in London

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, all eyes will be on Big Ben in London. But I’ll be more interested in another Big Ben coming to the capital in 2013 – Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

In my opinion, the 6-foot-5, 17-stone passer will be the headline act for the Steelers when they take on the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium on Sunday September 29, 2013. That will be the first of two International Series games in London next year with the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday October 27.

And Roethlisberger will become the latest star passer to grace the International Series at Wembley Stadium, following in the footsteps of Eli Manning (New York Giants), Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) and Tom Brady (New England Patriots).

In fact, some of the best quarterbacks in NFL history have played at Wembley Stadium over the years, including legends such as Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway and Steve Young.

Having led the Pittsburgh Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances and two league titles in his nine NFL seasons, Big Ben has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as those elite players.

What I’m most looking forward to seeing at Wembley Stadium next September is how Roethlisberger improvises when under pressure. He is the best ad-libbing quarterback in the game and is tough to bring down due to his size. He moves so well for a big man and has the arm strength and accuracy to shred opposing defenses.

And his importance to the Pittsburgh Steelers is acutely obvious. When Big Ben went down with rib and shoulder injuries last month, the Steelers dropped back-to-back games to Baltimore and Cleveland before rebounding to defeat the Ravens last weekend.

Pittsburgh’s patchy form with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch at the helm highlights how important their offensive leader is to their cause.

Having firmly established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, here is what the rest of the NFL is saying about Ben Roethlisberger.

“You can’t prepare for what Ben naturally does. How do you prepare to tackle a guy as big as a polar bear? How do you prepare for a guy who can flick a ball 50 yards at the drop of a dime? How do you prepare for a guy who can run like he does? How do you prepare for a guy who wants to win like he wants to win.” – Former New York Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce.

"I don’t know if any player in the NFL is as important to his team as Ben Roethlisberger is to the Pittsburgh Steelers.” – NBC commentator Al Michaels.

“Ben Roethlisberger is very strong and has great presence in the pocket. He is a superstar in this league.” – Former Pittsburgh Steelers four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

To date, Roethlisberger has thrown for 28,866 yards and 182 touchdowns en route to a pair of Super Bowl crowns. He doesn’t appear ready to hang up his shoulder pads just yet and should pad those numbers significantly in the coming seasons.

Whether that will be enough to earn him a coveted spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame remains to be seen, but it is clear that Roethlisberger has been one of the most successful quarterbacks of his era and I cannot wait to see him at his playmaking, improvisational best at Wembley next September.

5 things you might not know about Ben Roethlisberger…

  • Roethlisberger guided the Steelers to a Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks in just his second NFL season (2005), making him the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl (23 years old).
  • His second Super Bowl crown came at the conclusion of the 2008 season when Big Ben threw a game-winning 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes with just 35 seconds remaining, giving the Steelers a 27-23 victory.
  • Roethlisberger spent 10 days in Ireland and Scotland this summer, playing golf on courses such as the K Club and St. Andrews.
  • Played wide receiver at Findlay High School in Findlay, Ohio, before switching to the quarterback position in his senior year.
  • Has thrown 17 touchdown passes and just 4 interceptions this season, giving him an outstanding quarterback rating of 100.0.