Ben Roethlisberger typically likes to wait three seasons before making any declarations on a quarterback. While Joe Burrow's third season is technically not over yet, Roethlisberger is ready to declare the Bengals' 26-year-old quarterback as the real deal.
A year after leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl, Burrow's continued success this season has caught the eye of Roethlisberger, who retired last January as a two-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Fame quarterback. Roethlisberger is also high on the Bengals, who are one game away from successfully defending their AFC crown.
"The Bengals are looking really good right now," Roethlisberger recently said on his podcast. "They are a football team to be reckoned with right now. They have a real run in them, and I think Joe is where it starts.
"Joe is one of the elites in the league. He's good. His pocket presence. He can run enough, he's a sneaky good runner. Great decision-maker. Great throws. … I'm telling you what, I don't think it's too long until he's in MVP talks, I really believe that."
While he likely won't win, Burrow is actually in the running to win this year's MVP, along with wideout Justin Jefferson and fellow quarterbacks Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. Burrow won both of his head-to-head matchups with Allen and Mahomes this season. He is 3-0 in games against Mahomes-led teams entering Sunday's AFC Championship Game rematch at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Burrow was asked about being in the MVP mix following the Bengals' comeback win over the Chiefs in Week 13. It was the fourth of 10 consecutive wins for the Bengals, who including the postseason are 27-11 over the past two years with Burrow under center.
"It is what it is. I don't play the game for those kind of accolades," Burrow said at the time. "I play the game for those guys in the locker room. I've always said, whatever it takes out of me every Sunday, that's what I'm going to do. I could hand the ball off 72 times and come out with a win, I'm going to be happy."
Roethlisberger, who like Burrow grew up in Ohio, had a similar mindset during his career. While he retired as one of the most accomplished passers in league history, Roethlisberger was aided at times by dominant defenses and stout rushing attacks, especially early in his career when the Steelers played in three Super Bowls over a six-year span.
Like Roethlisberger did during his career, Burrow wants to be defined by team success. If he can help lead the Bengals to two more wins this season, Burrow -- who recently became the first former No. 1 overall pick to make two conference title game starts in his first two seasons -- will join Roethlisberger and former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco as AFC North quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls.
"I can't say enough enough Joe," Roethlisberger said. "It hurts me to say that about a division opponent, but I'm not in the division anymore."