A common discussion point (argument?) among fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers is, "Who's the greatest Steelers quarterback of all-time, Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger?" No one else is ever even mentioned in the discussion, so that got me to thinking, which Steelers QB would rank third on the list of Steelers' signal callers?
My own memory of Steelers quarterbacks goes back to Bobby Layne, a Hall of Famer, but one whose greatest years were with the Lions, and not the Steelers, and that is where I will begin this discussion.Those of you out there who want to make a case for guys like Jim Finks, Ted Marchibroda, Joe Geri, or Buss Warren, have at it, but I will begin with Layne.
Just to refresh your memories, here is a chronological list of every person who has started a game at quarterback for the Steelers since 1957:
Lenny Dawson (1 game; his HOF career began when the AFL was born)
Be honest now, how many of those names had you forgotten, or never even heard of in the first place?
So, how do you pick the guy who you would make the third string QB on the all-time Steelers team?
If you go purely by games started, you would take Stewart (75 starts) ahead of O'Donnell (61), Brister (57), and Layne (51).
If you go by completion percentage, O'Donnell (57.1%) edges Stewart (56.5%) and Brister (52.5%). Interestingly, all three of them are ahead of both Bradshaw (51.9%) and Layne (49.2%).
In terms of touchdown passes, Stewart (70) edges O'Donnell (68), Layne (66), and Brister (51).
How about total yards passing? Stewart has 13,328 yards, which is 461 yards more than O'Donnell and 3,224 yards more than Brister. Layne had 9,030 yards as a Steeler, almost 4,300 behind Stewart.
Interceptions O'Donnell rates best here with only 39 interceptions. Brister threw 51, Layne had 78, and Stewart had 72. However, we all know that two specific interceptions from O'Donnell stand out above almost all others ever thrown by ANY Steelers QB.
Finally, how about the one stat that nobody really understands, "Quarterback Rating"? Here is how it stands among all six QBs with the most starts:
Roethlisberger 93.9 (through the 2014 season, per Wikipedia)
Looking only at the numbers, it would seem that the choice would come down to either Neil O'Donnell or Kordell Stewart. O'Donnell took the Steelers to a Super Bowl. Stewart was a phenomenal athlete who could do more things on the field than O'Donnell could, and who, it could be argued was shackled by some of his coaches (Kevin Gilbride, most notably).
Flip a coin, but my vote on this all important question would go to Kordell Stewart. I'll listen to alternate arguments.
There is one thing that we all should keep in mind. It took the Steelers thirty-seven years to get Terry Bradshaw, and we all know what he accomplished. Once Bradshaw retired in 1983, it was another twenty-one years before Ben Roethlisberger arrived, and you all know what he has and still is accomplishing. You can see from that list above what the Steelers and their fans had to put up with over those twenty-one years. How many more great seasons are left in Roethlisberger? Three or four, maybe five? Let's hope the Steelers don't have to wait another twenty-one years to find his replacement.
(My thanks to Wikipedia - so you know it's true! - for the names and the stats used in writing this piece.)