The Big Ben Era Begins - By Tim Bodamer

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

No, he didn't have a show stopping 60-yard run like Michael Vick... No, he didn't throw five touchdowns in 30 minutes of play like Peyton Manning... No, he hasn't developed a Culpepper to Moss like touchdown factory as of yet with Hines Ward. But what Steelers rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger did do was win his first game as a starter, much earlier than many people anticipated.

Although his 12-for-22 performance, 163 yards, and one touchdown with one interception aren't how legendary careers are to begin, look between the lines and you'll see more positive signs:

 The game was played in a post-Hurricane Jeanne quagmire. Throwing the ball was not an option during heavy rain deluges throughout last Sunday's night game. But where A.J. Feeley, Miami's beleaguered quarterback, resided in throwing five-yard outs, Roethlisberger went downfield numerous times... One effort resulted in a big gain to Plaxico Burress setting up what seemed to be an insurmountable Pittsburgh field goal and 3-0 lead;

 The Miami Dolphins defense is one of the best in the league. The cornerback pair of Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain are the best Big Ben will face all year. Zach Thomas and Junior Seau are tackling monsters at linebacker. And Jason Taylor is one of the best pass rushers in the game. They held both Steve McNair's Tennessee and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer's offense in check;

 Rookie QBs in the NFL just don't see early season success. Denver's John Elway completed one pass against the Steelers in his rookie debut. Troy Aikman endured a one win season in his first year as a pro. Some of the NFL's current elite quarterbacks, the likes of Green Bay's Brett Favre, Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper, and Tennessee's McNair, all sat and learned the NFL game. Roethlisberger had no such luxury. But at this early season rate, he's on pace to throw for 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. Roethlisberger won't see two defenses back to back like he did in Baltimore and Miami. Yes, the stretch of Dallas, New England, and Philadelphia could pose a massive test for the young QB, but Roethlisberger kept his poise against some aggressive defensive schemes and passed with flying colors.

It's early, and Big Ben will still go through major growing pains. But he has the luxury of a veteran (albeit still developing) offensive line, a trio of great pass catchers, and a quality running back in Duce Staley.

Big Ben's time is now... although some bumps in the road will precede what could hold a promising career for the black and gold.