Posted by Ryan Wilson
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might have two Super Bowl rings, but even after seven NFL seasons some players remain unconvinced that he's anything more than a glorified game manager. That's the conclusion we're drawing based on Big Ben's recent ranking as the league's 41st best player as voted on by 400 of his peers.
Not everybody feels that way, however. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie took exception and tweeted as much. Responding to ESPN's Skip Bayless, who wrote "Big Ben definitely is in my top 10 NFL players," Cromartie put that Florida State psychology degree to work*:
"@RealSkipBayless same here skip...whoever did the voting is crazy."
Cromartie, who will be a free agent as soon as the lockout ends, has a love-hate relationship with NFL quarterbacks. In January, prior to the AFC Divisional matchup between the Jets and Patriots, he spoke frankly about Our Savior Tom Brady, calling him an "ass----" and offering up a "f--- him" for good measure.
"That's what I think about him," Cromartie said at the time. "I don't really give a damn about him. I don't have to play against him. I play against the receivers."
Despite the blasphemy, the Jets managed to thump the Pats and make it to their second AFC Championship Game in as many years. In the days leading up to the conference finals against the Steelers, Cromartie spoke glowingly of Roethlisberger.
"I love Ben, man," he said. "Ben's a competitor."
We're not sure if the Jedi mind tricks backfired or if Cro was blinded by Big Ben's magnificence (we're thinking it was mostly the former; Roethlisberger completed just 10 of 19 passes for 133 yards and threw two picks in that game), but the Steelers built a 24-3 halftime lead, held on to win by five and made their third Super Bowl trip in five years.
On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker wrote that "[N]o one is laughing this week about Roethlisberger's latest snub. Cromartie certainly doesn't like it, and although Roethlisberger wouldn't admit it, he's probably not happy about it, either."
We suspect that Cromartie is losing more sleep about the lack of paychecks resulting from the lockout than whether Ben's contemporaries think highly enough of his talents. And while Roethlisberger may not be jazzed about it, we're confident that Steelers fans don't much care (we know we don't). At the very least, Big Ben's feelings are at the bottom of the "Things That Concern Fans Most This Offseason" list behind "Resolve labor dispute," "Re-sign Ike Taylor," and "Make sure Mendenhall has a ghost blogger for future posts."
Lists are created for one reason: to encourage debate. But it could be worse for Roethlisberger -- he could be Eli Manning, who isn't expected to be among the top 100 players of 2011. (Seriously? We could understand if this was an all-century team, or even all-decade. But Elisha can't crack the 2011 squad? Yes, we're breaking our own rule about not caring about lists, but this is so ridiculous that even one of the Barber twins has a problem with it.)
If nothing else, we've enjoyed Bayless and Cromartie leading the PR crusade on Roethlisberger's behalf. That's a reality show waiting to happen.
* We have no idea what Cromartie majored in at FSU.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.