By Eric Meliton
When collectors think of the name Ben Roethlisberger, they think of the word champion. Nicknamed “Big Ben,” the 27-year-old quarterback already reached a number of milestones, most importantly, two Super Bowl rings.
Drafted 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Roethlisberger is usually compared to Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, who were drafted in the same year. Statistically, each player has experienced success in the league but neither of the other two have taken it to the level Roethlisberger has and you can’t refute his ability to win in the clutch.
Collectors would agree. Initially a back-up quarterback in his rookie season, Roethlisberger was quickly thrust into stardom after key injuries. Roethlisberger led the Steelers to 13 straight wins, and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.
As a result of his immediate success, Roethlisberger quickly went from an unknown to one of the most highly sought-after players from the 2004 NFL campaign. His key rookie cards quickly surpassed the high-end cards of both Manning and Rivers.
After bursting on to the scene in 2004, Roethlisberger quickly moved to the top of the hobby’s must-have list of football cards. Midway through the 2004 season, Roethlisberger owned the top two singles and four cards in the overall top 10 with his jerseys and other memorabilia being equally hot.
His hot start in the NFL combined with Super Bowl successes has maintained his overall investment value. Many of Roethlisberger’s rookie cards are still highly coveted as collectors use them for investment purposes.
“Roethlisberger’s hot start allowed his late-season rookie cards to become very popular,” Topps Clay Luraschi said. “He’s been on a roll ever since and he’s heads above the rest in his draft class with his accomplishments thus far.”
When comparing Roethlisberger to his draft class of superstars, many believe he will continue to be the key player from 2004, despite the pedigree of the others mentioned. According to Scott Prusha of Panini America, “Most collectors want those gun-slinging QB’s ... If Big Ben wins one more Super Bowl, he should draw comparisons to Bradshaw and get mentioned in the same group as Joe Montana or Tom Brady.”
The expectations of both fans and collectors alike will continue for Roethlisberger. With success achieved at such a young age in his career, many hope that he will continue to notch championships. Some argue that Roethlisberger’s success can be attributed to a solid team on both sides of the ball; however, opinions from local perspectives beg to differ.
Matt Loede, correspondent of SteelersMill.com, provides the following, “Steelers fans have come to expect wins and a high level of play, and what Ben has been able to do so far in the league has given fans even more fuel to wanting to see more rings and a high level of play from their franchise QB.”
The team at Pittsburgh Sports Wholesale, a local sports card wholesaler, agrees with Loede’s sentiments, “Steelers fans have high expectations no matter what. It’s either win or the whole city will chew you up.”
Despite this level of fan expectation, Roethlisberger has risen to the challenge each season. He has battled through injuries and inconsistent statistics to continue to post wins. Although it may be too early to predict his comparisons to other great NFL quarterbacks, a comparison to his childhood idol is a solid start.
Roethlisberger grew up idolizing quarterback John Elway. Elway is most known for his style of play and ability to rally his team in the clutch. Roethlisberger chose to wear the number seven on his jersey to honor Elway’s accomplishments on the field. From the collector’s perspective, the comparison between Roethlisberger and many great NFL quarterbacks has already begun.
“He’s become the next John Elway, as he has been able to bring the team back from a lot of deficits, Loede said. “So in the end, his style is that of a winner, and that’s what Steelers’ fans and Steelers collectors want.”
Predicting the future is difficult for collectors. However, purchasing the high-end autograph and memorabilia collectibles of Roethlisberger seems to be a safe, long-term investment. There are a number of players to choose from in Steelers history and from the other sports in the city. Hall of Fame careers of Roberto Clemente, Terry Bradshaw, and Mario Lemieux are prime examples of strong collectible investments from Pittsburgh, not to mention the other Hall of Famers from the Steelers.
For 2009 products, Topps has selected Roethlisberger to represent its flagship 2009 Topps Football brand, to cater to Steelers fans and a national collector following of Big Ben. He is also a recognizable player in many high-end sets and memorabilia inserts for both Panini America (Donruss) and Upper Deck. SCM