MMQB Mailbag: Big Ben back on big stage; arguing Warner's HOF status
Ben Roethlisberger did not play well in his first Super Bowl
Breaking down how players are paid in the NFL postseason
Readers debate Kurt Warner's HOF candidacy and more
PITTSBURGH -- The last time I saw Ben Roethlisberger in a Super Bowl locker room, he was sitting at the chair in front of his locker, leaning over, looking at the floor. This was one down dude ... and he'd just won the biggest game of his life.
That's because Big Ben was awful that day -- nine of 21, 123 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. His throws looked forced all day. They sailed, they quailed, they tailed. And even though teammates kept coming up to him, congratulating him and telling him not to worry, he just never felt right about the game, and, as I write in this week's Sports Illustrated, it's something that took Roethlisberger long into the offseason to get over.
I saw former Steeler Antwaan Randle El in the Pittsburgh locker room Sunday night after the AFC title game, working the room for NFL Network. I told him he'd be the answer to a Super Bowl trivia question next week: Who threw the only touchdown pass for Pittsburgh in their last Super Bowl victory? It was Randle El, of course, with a 43-yard option pass to Hines Ward.
"Ben's going to be much better this time around,'' said Randle El, now a Redskin. "Not only is he a better player and quarterback overall right now, with so much more confidence, but he's been through it. The playoff wins, the playoff losses. He knows how to approach a big game now. You could see it out here [Sunday night]. He's not going to try to do too much, and maybe he did that last time.''
That's the general perception, that Roethlisberger has been at his best in crunch time and playing hurt this year. But even the most ardent Steelers fans have to admit in the back of their minds they wonder if Roethlisberger will be affected by the bigness of the stage in Tampa. We'll see.
Now onto your e-mail.
JOE ASKS A SIMPLE, BUT INTERESTING, QUESTION. From Joe Garcia, of Hellertown, Pa.: "Are the two best teams in this year's Super Bowl?''
The two hottest teams at the end of the year are there, which is all that counts. Would I rank the Cardinals as the second-best team in football right now? It'd be close. Probably I'd have them No. 2 over Baltimore.
THE WORST THING TO DO IS CALL SOMEONE A LOCK, BUT I WOULD LEAN TOWARD DUNGY. From Shaughn of Somerville, Mass.: "I know the ink isn't dry on the NFL head coach equivalent of a two weeks notice, but I was wondering if you had any preliminary thoughts on Tony Dungy's Hall of Fame chances? A number of people I've talked to seem to think he's a lock, which matched my initial thoughts. When I started to think about it more, I began to wonder whether or not he was unquestionably better than contemporaries like Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan. Are we coming off an era of multiple Hall of Fame head coaches or does Dungy stand taller than his competition in a way I'm missing?''
The Dungy case is very interesting, and I think the pioneering aspect of it is significant -- very significant. As a coach, Dungy has a good case -- 10 straight years of directing his team to the playoffs (both with a quarterback and without one), nine of his last 10 years winning double-digits, a Super Bowl title. As a pioneer, being the first black coach to win a Super Bowl is an important historic accomplishment in a league in which two-thirds of the players are black. For too long the league lagged far behind in the hiring of minorities to be head coaches. He's a beacon, and so many coaches from the NFL to Pop Warner look up to him as their primary role model. It's not quite Namath willing the AFL to a Super Bowl win and pro football equality, but I think it's close.
HERE ARE THE PLAYOFF PAYDAYS. From Luke, of Tampa: "How are players paid for playoff games? Are they paid by the teams or does the NFL kick in, and is it just an extension of what their usual game paycheck is or is some kind of bonus paid out in addition?"
The league pays players in a strict formula for all playoff games, and the numbers increase slightly every other year. This is the second year in a row that the formula calls for the following payouts per player in the playoffs:
Wild-card games (division winners): $20,000.
Those numbers for the 2009 and 2010 seasons increase to $21,000, $19,000, $21,000, $38,000, $83,000 and $42,000.
VERY INTERESTING THOUGHT. From Bill W., of Boston: "I think Mike Martz should come to the Patriots to either be offensive coordinator or receivers coach/assistant head coach so Bill Belichick can focus on the defense. He got a bum deal at his last two stops with bad players and bad upper management. This would be the place to vindicate himself and his career. Running his system with our personnel would be mind-numbing. Would this ever happen?''
Well, Bill, you and I know both know how much Belichick loves Martz, and vice versa. I think this is an interesting thought, and I wouldn't dismiss it, not at all, because Belichick is not afraid of new ideas and, in fact, looks for them all the time. I think the difficulty might come in when you figure that Martz, over the past 10 years, has always run his own offense, with no interference from anyone, and as you know, Bill has his hands in every pie on the team -- and obviously it's worked very well. But I'm intrigued.