Ben Roethlisberger

Similarities between 2017 Eagles and 2005 Steelers

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Similarities between 2017 Eagles and 2005 Steelers

Playoff football is here, baby! 

Six out of my 12 years in the NFL, I was blessed to be a part of the playoffs. My first two years with the Eagles, one year with the Lions, a year with the Giants and two with the Steelers.

During those playoff games I was one and done three times, done in the divisional round once, in the championship game twice, and I won Super Bowl XL.

As I watch the Eagles enter this divisional round, it brought me back to experiences that I will never forget. One impressive game was the Steelers at the Colts in the 2005 season. I remember the game clearly, as I looked across the sideline at Peyton Manning in his prime against our defense. There were so many key matchups in this battle with the Colts. Outside LB Joey Porter against perennial All-Pro left tackle Tarik Glenn. DT Casey Hampton against All-Pro center Jeff Saturday. The list of Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers on the field was evident, and it was very apparent at that point that this was a game for the ages.

When not on the field, I made it a point to take in the moment. I realized that I was in a special moment in my career, not because I was in my 11th year, but more so because I understood that there was something special going on. I knew we were going to win the Super Bowl because everything fell into place. This was the game when Jerome Bettis fumbled and Big Ben made the shoestring, saving tackle. 

I was at goal-line TE going into the end zone. Jerome was never a fumbler, and we ran 16 power to the right — our bread and butter play. Alan Faneca, our Pro-Bowl left guard, pulled to the right. All I had to do was cut the DE in the end zone. It was a guaranteed six points, and Bettis fumbled. Wow, what a play by Big Ben. 

This was one of the many plays during the year that led to Super Bowl XL in Detriot, Bettis' hometown. We as a team had to send JB into retirement with a ring. I just knew there was something special about this team going into the playoffs as a 6-seed.

Well ... Philadelphia, I feel like this team has the same mojo going on this year. I'm not saying that my Birds are going to the big game, but the Eagles have taken the next-man-up philosophy to a different level. Losing All-Pro players and future Hall of Famers throughout the season and still entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed is an unbelievable accomplishment.

So I wrote all this to say, make sure you don't lose sight of the moment. Take in the experience of a top-seeded Eagles team ready to fight the odds and naysayers. It can be done as long as the 53 men and coaches believe, even when no one else does.

Where Nick Foles ranks among 12 playoff QBs

Where Nick Foles ranks among 12 playoff QBs

The dozen quarterbacks whose teams made the playoffs vary in skill level, playoff experience and momentum.

Where does Nick Foles check in among the field, and where would a healthy Carson Wentz have landed? This order was not chosen based on one set metric, age or necessarily past accomplishments. This is also not about how they will be looked at once their careers are over.

1. Tom Brady
This one does not need much explanation. Brady has won five Super Bowls and been to seven. He is also a four-time MVP of the big game. And even at 39, he led the Patriots back to win from a 28-3 deficit in the second half of last year's Super Bowl.

2. Ben Roethlisberger
He's the only QB on the list other than Brady with multiple rings. Roethlisberger has won two. He also plays in an offense with a cadre of weapons, including the one-two punch of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown (if healthy). He's participated in and won a ton of big postseason games.

3. Drew Brees
Unlike years past, the Saints' offense is not solely dependent on Brees' right arm. New Orleans has the best tandem running attack in football with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. However, Brees still threw for more than 4,000 yards and a 103.9 passer rating at the age of 39. Second-year wideout Michael Thomas is one of the more underrated players in the league, posting more than 1,100 receiving yards in both seasons.

4. Matt Ryan
This is where things tighten up a bit. Ryan's play and numbers have dipped from his 2016 MVP campaign. Kyle Shanahan's departure as the Falcons' offensive coordinator has had a major impact. But Ryan still has Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and the experience of getting to the big game last year. The big question is are the Falcons and Ryan still suffering from the hangover of that bitter collapse to the Patriots?

5. Cam Newton
Newton's pass-run ability is second to none among the remaining QBs. I put him behind Ryan because of the inconsistency of Carolina's passing game. Newton can look like a world-beater at times with his arm, but too many times his mechanics are off and his decision-making is poor, as evidenced by his 22-16 touchdown-interception ratio. But when he is in a zone, he is brutal to contain.

6. Alex Smith
I know what you're thinking. "This guy is a game manager who hasn't won any big ones." Smith threw for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He also has 12 TDs to just two interceptions in six postseason games. He's better than people give him credit for.

7. Jared Goff
Goff has no playoff experience. However, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Sean McVay, the second-year QB came into his own and proved worthy of being the first overall pick. The Rams will lean heavily on all-world running back Todd Gurley, which will make Goff's first exposure to the postseason much smoother.

8. Case Keenum
Keenum had shuttled between the bench and starting in his previous four seasons in the NFL. But when given a chance this year, he's played extremely well and done more than play not to lose. He also has an excellent trio of receivers in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph. People all season have been trying to write Keenum off or send him to the bench when Teddy Bridgewater returned from IR, but all Keenum did was win.

9. Marcus Mariota
The man many Eagles fans wanted during the Chip Kelly era has not quite lived up to the hype. Injuries and inconsistent play have defined Mariota's early career. He threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) this year but is still a threat with his legs.

10. Nick Foles
Tenth out of 12 does not exactly inspire hope for Eagles fans. I am a firm believer Foles should be the starter in the Eagles' divisional round game and barring injury, we should not see Nate Sudfeld. But there is no other way to spin this: Foles has been terrible since taking the reins from Wentz. He looks scared and hesitant in the pocket and his decision-making has been bad. However, he has started and played well in a playoff game, which should count for something. (I'm trying here.)

11. Tyrod Taylor
I'm not a big fan of either of these last two guys. That said, Taylor has done a decent job this season. He too can make plays with his legs to either move the chains or keep plays alive. The Bills hope to lean heavily on LeSean McCoy, who sprained his ankle in the season finale and is a game-time decision. Any kind of big deficit and the Bills are done.

12. Blake Bortles
The Jaguars' defense is why they are in the postseason. Bortles has been better than he was in years past but that's not saying much. Leonard Fournette and that ferocious defense are the combo-plate for the Jags to advance.

• • •

As for where Wentz would have ranked had he not gotten injured ... 

I would have placed him third behind Brady and Roethlisberger. Wentz doesn't strike me as the type who would have been swallowed up by postseason hype. His command of the Eagles' offense and feel for the NFL lead me to believe he would have thrived in that type of environment. Oh, what could have been.

NFL Notes: Percy Harvin comes out of retirement to rejoin Bills

NFL Notes: Percy Harvin comes out of retirement to rejoin Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Receiver Percy Harvin has come out of retirement to sign with the Buffalo Bills, his agent Greg Barnett says.

Harvin retired in April after spending last season in Buffalo, citing numerous injuries. He had 19 catches for 218 yards and a touchdown in five games with the Bills before being sidelined by lingering hip and knee injuries.

Harvin fills an immediate need on a team with a banged-up group of receivers. Buffalo played New England on Sunday without three of its top four receivers, then lost backup Brandon Tate to a possible concussion. Sammy Watkins is on injured reserve with a left foot injury, but is eligible to return later this month.

Harvin must still pass a physical.

Before he retired, the Bills were Harvin's third team in two years after he was traded by the Seattle Seahawks to the New York Jets during the 2014 season (see full story).

Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger could return Sunday
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't ruled out quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returning for Sunday's game in Baltimore.

Coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday he'll see how Roethlisberger's left knee responds during practice before making any sort of decision between Roethlisberger and backup Landry Jones.

Roethlisberger torn cartilage in his knee during a loss to the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 16. He underwent surgery the next day and sat out a 27-16 loss to the New England Patriots. Roethlisberger practiced a bit on Monday, with Tomlin calling it "generally positive."

The Steelers (4-3) are also hopeful defensive end Cam Heyward, right tackle Marcus Gilbert and running back DeAngelo Williams will also have a chance to play in Baltimore (3-4).

Vikings: Zimmer has 'minor medical procedure'
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Coach Mike Zimmer is recovering from what the Minnesota Vikings have called a "minor medical procedure" performed the morning after the team's loss at Chicago.

Zimmer's regular day-after-game news conference was canceled on Tuesday. The Vikings said Zimmer would be available to the media on Wednesday at his regularly scheduled time. No other details about the coach's condition were disclosed.

The Vikings lost to the Bears 20-10 on Monday night.

Midway through the 2014 season, his first with Minnesota, Zimmer had kidney stones removed. The 60-year-old has also been bothered by knee trouble, occasionally joking about his balky joint when asked by reporters about injury updates on his players.

The Vikings (5-2) host Detroit (4-4) on Sunday.