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Big Ben or Bradshaw ... who's better?


October 15, 2012
The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - It didn't matter a bit in the big gloomy picture, but Ben Roethlisberger became the Pittsburgh Steelers' career leader in passing yardage last week in Tennessee.

He broke Terry Bradshaw's record of 27, 989 yards, which was set over 14 seasons. Roethlisberger is in his ninth season. That's led to discussion about who's the better quarterback.

That may effectively kill some hours on sports talk radio, but there's no real answer. The game is profoundly different in so many ways, the only thing Bradshaw and Roethlisberger share is a North Side address and a Rooney signature on their paychecks.

In 1974, the Steelers' first Super Bowl season, Bradshaw passed for 785 yards. Roethlisberger had 905 yards in the first three games this season.

Bradshaw spent the first half of his career handing the ball off, especially after Franco Harris arrived in 1972. Teams preferred running the ball to throwing short passes. Spread offenses didn't exist. Defensive rules were more liberal. Bradshaw took five years to establish himself as a viable starter in an era when quarterbacks were responsible for calling their own plays.

The inventory of Super Bowl rings doesn't settle it, either. Bradshaw was an integral part of the last two titles in the 1970s, but Harris was the more important offensive player in the first two championships.

Bradshaw is in the Hall of Fame. Roethlisberger will be there when he's eligible. Each was an elite quarterback in his era, but they played in very different times.

Had enough?

This is just speculation based on a long-distance reading of the tea leaves, but the guess here is Jim Leyland will step down whether his Detroit Tigers win or lose.

It was a long, difficult season and Leyland is approaching his 68th birthday. Players have changed, and it's a challenge for anyone to manage these days. It's especially tough when the manager is old enough to be the players' grandfather.

John Mehno can be reached at

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