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News » TWO QBs,


Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, the next Ben Roethlisberger or the next Charlie Frye?

Flacco, who left an unappreciative Pitt to find his fame and fortune through the University of Delaware Blue Hens, is the latest "franchise" quarterback to hit the AFC North Division.

Some, like Roethlisberger and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, have panned out. Others, such as Frye, Derek Anderson and Kyle Boller, have not.

Today at 4:15 p.m. in Baltimore, Flacco can put himself and the Ravens in the kind of position that Roethlisberger also accomplished as a rookie -- in the playoffs. If it weren't for Flacco, the Ravens would not have had a chance, just as without Roethlisberger the 2004 Steelers would have been a different story.

Both were thrust into the job because of injuries; both thrived once it was theirs. Roethlisberger's success, of course, continued, while Flacco's is yet to be determined.

The comparison between Flacco and Roethlisberger was made early in the season by none other than Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. He told his rookie quarterback he could do for the Ravens what Roethlisberger did for the Steelers.

"Yes, Ray said that," Flacco acknowledged. "Ray has said many things to me. It is all to give me the confidence to go out there and play Football; that is what I took out of it. He has confidence in me, and the rest of the team has confidence in me. I just have to play the way that I know how to and let it loose. That is what I have tried to do the past 13 weeks. I think that I have done pretty well for us."

Flacco ranks as the hottest rookie quarterback in the league, and it would not be a stretch to remove "rookie" from that equation. His overall statistics while leading Baltimore to a 9-4 record are Roethlisberger rookie-like: 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 23 sacks, a 60.2 completion rate. But he has improved as the season has progressed.

Over the past eight games, Flacco has a 95.6 passer rating, has thrown for 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, and his team has won seven of those.

"Flacco at quarterback just continues to look more and more comfortable," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's proven time and again that the stage isn't too big for him."

The Ravens' rookie made an early impression on those who will try to knock his block off today.

"That was the thing that surprised me the most about him," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "In our first game, he didn't look flustered at all. He stayed with everything, didn't really look rattled at all. We tried to show him a lot of different looks but really didn't confuse him."

It was only his third game, it was a Monday night and it was in Heinz Field, where he rode the Pitt bench as a backup to Tyler Palko.

It seemed a perfect spot for a rookie quarterback meltdown. Instead, Flacco threw for one touchdown and no interceptions and engineered a 76-yard touchdown drive that tied the game with 4:02 left to send it into overtime.

"No question, he's a talent," Tomlin said. "Shoot, he showed what he was capable of when he drove them the length of the field in the fourth quarter to tie that game up against us. I think he's used that experience and just continued to move forward. It looks like they're just as comfortable with him as he is playing."

It took an injury to Boller and a case of tonsillitis for Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to clear a path for Flacco to start as a rookie. It was in Baltimore in the second game of 2004 that Roethlisberger got his chance, after a preseason knee injury to Charlie Batch moved him to No. 2. An injury to starter Tommy Maddox gave him his opportunity.

Batch, who became the starter for the Detroit Lions the third game of his rookie season, said the Ravens are treating Flacco the way the Steelers did Roethlisberger, and the Lions with him. They reduced the playbook, then expanded it as his experience and knowledge grew.

"They're opening it up a little bit as he gets more and more comfortable with it," Batch said. "You can kind of see him maturing as the year goes on.

"That's basically how it goes: Just don't put the defense in a bad situation at the beginning and as it goes through, they open it up. If something happens negatively, they bring it right back down."

The Steelers would like to provide some negatives for him today, but, after searching long and hard since they moved to Baltimore, the Ravens finally seem to have found their longterm quarterback.

A comparison

Joe Flacco's rookie numbers vs. Ben Roethlisberger's:

Flacco*......Category......Big Ben**

2,410......Passing yards......2,621

60.2......Completion percentage......66.4

13......Touchdown passes......17

81.3......QB Rating......98.1

*-13 games **-14 games in 2004

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 14, 2008

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