The 2004 NFL draft was one of the most anticipated drafts of all time. We all know about the drama surrounding Eli Manning and the San Diego Chargers during that draft. What most don’t remember however is the drama in the Ben Roethlisberger camp. Digging deeper into the events of that draft, it was very clear that Ben Roethlisberger wanted to be a New York Giant. Let’s review the events that led Ben Roethlisberger to become a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite his desire to go elsewhere:
The Eli Manning saga:
The Eli Manning refusal to play in San Diego set off a chain of events that would forever change the fate of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In an interview for an ESPN documentary, Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi was quoted as saying “Ben Roethlisberger would have been our selection at pick number four”. That fact seemed to please the Roethlisberger camp. At one point Steinberg said “It looks like the Giants at four, which is very good for us”. https://youtu.be/KYONAJDWK-E
The Chargers had other plans however. They sat with the number one overall pick, and very much wanted Eli Manning. Their second choice happened to be Philip Rivers. Marty Schottenhiemer was the coach of the Chargers at the time, and had coached Rovers in the Senior Bowl that year. Schottenheimer came away extremely impressed with the North Carolina St. quarterback after spending the week with him.
Roethlisberger to the Giants dead:
As the draft unfolded, The Chargers did indeed select Eli Manning. The Giants then selected Philip Rivers at four, despite their clear preference for Roethlisberger. It was at this point the speculation began that the Giants and Chargers were working on a trade. Ben Roethlisberger’s camp can be clearly seen in complete disgust over what was transpiring. The trade was announced minute later, and any chance of him going to New York was now gone.
Why New York?:
There were several factors as to why Ben Roethlisberger wanted to be a New York Giant. As it was with Manning, both players wanted to play in New York for the many financial opportunities that city could bring. Both players understood playing quarterback in New York meant lots of endorsement money in their future. Another important factor was draft position. Roethlisberger’s agent knew if he slipped past four, it was very likely Big Ben would fall to at least eleven where the Steelers selected. Falling out of the top ten was very costly in terms of his rookie contract. Even the Steelers were no lock to take Roethlisberger. There were many rumors head coach Bill Cowher preferred guard Shawn Andrews in that draft.
Luckily for all involved, Cowher was overruled, and the Steelers did select Roethlisberger. He would go on to be one of the greatest players in franchise history. Top 30 Steelers players of the Mike Tomlin era Andrews meanwhile, would have a pedestrian NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It all worked out in the end:
At the end of the day, all parties involved came away happy. All three quarterbacks are destined for the Hall of Fame. Despite Ben Roethlisberger’s desire to play in New York, he undoubtedly is happy how his career turned out. Eighteen years, and two Super Bowls later, it’s doubtful he would change anything about the 2004 draft. Just one of many interesting nuggets in the most fascinating draft of all time.