Tom Brady and Big Ben are big fans of one another.
The two quarterbacks who are set to square off in this weekend’s AFC Championship game spoke glowingly of one another Wednesday, as both prepare to lead their respective teams to their ninth Super Bowl appearance.
“Ben [Roethlisberger] is an incredible player, and he’s been that way since 2004 when he came into the league. I’ve always loved the way he plays, very tough, hard-nosed,” Brady said of his QB counterpart. “He’s just been a great player. I think the respect is very mutual. To play at his level for as long as he has and with his style of play has been remarkable.”
Roethlisberger was equally as complimentary towards Brady. Roethlisberger and Brady made headlines earlier in the season when the two met at midfield before their October 23 game and Big Ben asked Brady for his jersey to hang in his office. Roethlisberger did not play in the game as he was nursing an injury. The Patriots won the game 27-16. The exchange can be seen below:
When asked about the exchange Wednesday, Roethlisberger offered a little more insight.
“I hate that those things get taped and [heard] because it wasn’t meant for that,” Roethlisberger said on a call with the Boston media. “I have it hanging in my office. I have a lot of respect for him; I think that’s very well known. I think he’s one of, if not the greatest, quarterbacks of all time. It’s been an honor to play against him, to call him a competitor, and so I put it up in my office with the likes of the Marinos and Elways and Kellys and things like that.”
While Brady and Roethlisberger have been playing together in the league since 2004, they’ve only matched up in the postseason once: the 2004 AFC Championship game which the Patriots won 41-27 in Pittsburgh. Brady has never lost to the Steelers at home, having gone 4-0 over the course of his career, and 9-2 against Pittsburgh overall.
While their matchup has never quite lived up to the aura of, say, a Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry, the two have shared some memorable moments against each other. In many ways, Roethlisberger’s coming out party came against the Patriots on Halloween 2004, when the 5-1 Steelers snapped the Patriots record 21 game winning streak. He became a household name soon after.
Still, the stakes have never been higher than this Sunday’s game. Both quarterbacks are trying to lay stake to legacy implications: Brady looking to become the first quarterback in NFL history to win five Super Bowls, while Roethlisberger is looking to become the first QB since Brady to win three Super Bowls in a career and just the fifth overall.