Super Bowl Trading Places: Joe Montana and Ben Roethlisberger From image

Trading Places: Montana and Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger heir to Montana's throne?

By Joel Beall -
Feb. 1, 2011

The name Joe Montana is synonymous with "clutch" thanks to his numerous late-game and postseason exploits. Montana's performance under pressure was so herculean that the nickname "Joe Cool" was bestowed upon the former 49er quarterback. His feats are so legendary that many Montana moments own a distinctive moniker in football lore: The Chicken Soup Game. The Catch. The "Isn't that John Candy?" Drive. It was this calm and collective demeanor that correlated into four Super Bowls and a NFL-record 16 playoff victories.

Although there's a high probability that mark won't stand the test of time. At 28-years-old (relatively young for the QB position), Ben Roethlisberger has posted 10 postseason conquests and is pursuing number 11 in Dallas. More importantly, a victory over the Green Bay Packers gives Roethlisberger his third championship ring.

It's not just that the former Miami RedHawk is accumulating wins, it's how. Big Ben has more fourth-quarter comeback wins (regular seasons and playoffs) in his first seven seasons than any other quarterback in NFL history with 19. To give that figure light, Montana conducted 12 game-winning drives over a similar time span.

So why hasn't Roethlisberger received as much acclaim for his accomplishments? Roethlisberger's postseason stats haven't been impressive, as the Steeler gunslinger has posted pedestrian numbers of 17 touchdowns offset by 14 picks. Montana was the unquestioned focal point of Bill Walsh's offense, while Roethlisberger entered into a run-first mantra in Pittsburgh, correlating to shared spotlight with running backs Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. And unquestionably, Roethlisberger's off-the-field antics haven't done him any favors.

Yet the only value of significance is that of the win column, and there's no denying Roethlisberger's success in that statistic. So as Roethlisberger is projected as the heir apparent to Montana's mark, we decided to illustrate a comparison between the two quarterbacks.

Joe Montana
Joe Montana
Ben Roethlisberger

We choose Montana's championship-winning 1984 team as A) this roster provided a statistically-equivalent adversary for the Steelers and B) Montana was 28-years-old during this campaign, the current age of Roethlisberger.

1984 Joe Montana and Team Stats

- 3630 yards (16 games)
- 28 TD, 10 INT
- 102.9 QB rating
- 64.6 Completion %
- 14-2 record
- 29.7 points per game (2nd in NFL)
- 14.2 points allowed per game (1st in NFL)

2010 Ben Roethlisberger and Team Stats

- 3200 yards (12 games)
- 17 TD, 5 INT
- 97.0 QB rating
- 61.7 Completion %
- 12-4 record
- 23.4 points per game (12th in NFL)
- 14.5 points allowed per game (1st in NFL)

2010 Steelers vs. 1984 Niners - 2,501 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
1984 San Francisco 49ers4720Create Dream Team
2010 Pittsburgh Steelers5323Simulate PIT/SF

The initial simulation gives the slight edge to this year's Steelers. On the surface, this might seem like an upset, as the '84 49ers finished the season 18-1. (Their only loss that season? A 20-17 defeat to, you guessed it, Pittsburgh). But Montana's passing yards per game paled in comparison to Roethlisberger's (266.7 to 226.9) and the second coming of the Steel Curtain suppressed opponents to nearly 50 yards less on the ground than San Francisco (62.8 rushing yards per game compared to 112.2).

But to get a better perspective on how each signal caller impacts his respective team, we switched Big Ben and Joe Cool to see if the results would differ:

2010 vs. 1984 - QB Swap - 2,501 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
Roethlisberger 49ers 5127Create 49ers/Steelers
@ Montana Steelers 4926Dream Team

Both defenses' performance mirrored the first simulation, but Roethlisberger appeared to take advantage of the deep ball while Montana was more prone to turnovers.

However, a win in Dallas does not necessarily guarantee inheritance of Montana's throne to Roethlisberger. Another quarterback won his third title at 28, and currently owns 14 postseason victories. But with three straight playoff defeats and turning 34 in August, Tom Brady will be the first to attest to the notion that postseason glory is not a gift.

There's an adage in sports stating, "Records were meant to be broken." Roethlisberger can take a major step forward in this endeavor with a win on Sunday. But don't expect Montana to feel the heat.

He is, after all, Joe Cool.

Joel Beall is a Content Writer for He can be reached at

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