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Bill Cowher on Ben Roethlisberger's rookie season: 'It was never too big for him'

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Bill Cowher had his Pro Football Hall of Fame press conference yesterday via Zoom, and along with addressing his thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger heading into his 18th season, he also shared memories from Roethlisberger's first season in 2004.

Cowher admitted that Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were far more ready for the NFL game than Roethlisberger, as they played at Power 5 schools, and Roethlisberger was coming from Miami of Ohio, who play in the Mid-American Conference.

The Steelers didn't plan on starting Roethlisberger right away in 2004, but veterans Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch suffered injuries and Roethlisberger ended up being the starting quarterback by Week 3.

The Steelers started Roethlisberger off slowly, but he would soon become a phenom, leading the Steelers to 13 consecutive wins and a 15-1 regular-season record. Roethlisberger was named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, the first Steeler to win the award since Louis Lipps in 1984.

"He went from managing the game to winning games," Cowher said of Roethlisberger. "And I was just amazed at – not just with his athleticism and his size, but his feel for the game. He could see the field better than anybody, he got comfortable outside the pocket. Not afraid to make throws, it was never too big for him."

Roethlisberger won 14 of 15 starts as a rookie, his only loss coming against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field. However, he got redemption the following year, as he became the youngest quarterback in NFL history at the age of 23 to win a Super Bowl.

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