Updated: Apr 25
(Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
On this day 17 years ago, Ben Roethlisberger was drafted by the Steelers at 11th overall out of Miami of Ohio. However, that almost didn't occur. As if the Chargers didn't make a trade with the Giants to send Eli Manning to New York, Roethlisberger would have been a Giant.
Manning famously didn't want to go to San Diego as his family and agent thought the organization was run poorly, but they ended up drafting him at No. 1 overall anyway. The Giants agreed with the Chargers to draft Philip Rivers at No. 4 overall and then trade him to New York for Manning.
Former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi recently shared how the trade for Manning with San Diego went down in the final minutes and they had Roethlisberger's name written down on the card to be handed to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
“I still had to worry about Oakland, which ended up picking (offensive lineman Robert) Gallery from Iowa, and Arizona (the Cards took wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald),” Accorsi said on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com via Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network.
"It didn’t look like I was going to make that trade (the Manning deal) because I didn’t make it until seven minutes into my time allotment. But leading up to that point, I was holding my breath on Roethlisberger, and we had written Roethlisberger’s name down on the card – ready to hand it in immediately.
“And that was what I was worried about. That’s the thing about the draft that drives you crazy. Just like I said about Oakland trading over us, the things you can’t control are what keep you up at night.”
The Browns had a chance to select Roethlisberger at sixth overall, who is from Findlay, Ohio but decided to draft tight end Kellen Winslow II instead. Roethlisberger luckily fell to Pittsburgh at 11th overall and Bill Cowher and the Steelers decided to select him, as Tommy Maddox was coming off a bad season and they needed a future franchise quarterback.
"When you look at him athletically, a lot of people have talked about athletically he may have a lot better attributes than some of the other two picked in front of him, but I think certainly the experience factor, certainly the questions of where he played," Cowher said of Roethlisberger after drafting him. "I think this kid has a lot of upside. Again, the thing he lacks is experience. I think he's only going to get better the more he plays."
It was the late Dan Rooney who convinced Cowher to draft Roethlisberger, however, as he didn't want the Steelers to make the same mistake like in 1983 when they didn't draft Pittsburgh's own Dan Marino and selected defensive tackle Gabriel Rivera at 21st overall instead. Cowher and Kevin Colbert reportedly were ready to draft Arkansas guard Shawn Andrews with the No. 11 pick.
“When our turn came, I couldn’t bear the thought of passing on another great quarterback prospect the way we had passed on Dan Marino in 1983, so I steered the conversation around to Roethlisberger. After some more talk, we came to a consensus and picked Roethlisberger,” Rooney said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Andrews went to the Eagles with the No. 16 pick, but injuries cut his career short and he played just seven seasons in the league.
Roethlisberger was a part of a legendary quarterback draft class with Manning and Rivers, all three will someday be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Roethlisberger is the only one that’s still playing and is heading into his 18th season with the Steelers. Rivers retired after this past season and Manning retired the year prior. It’s arguably the greatest quarterback draft class in NFL history. Only the 1983 quarterback draft class of John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly rival it.
Roethlisberger and Manning both have won two Super Bowls apiece, but Rivers never won a Super Bowl or appeared in one.