Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger turned 30 years old on Friday, March 2.  For RBs in the NFL, that’s not a good number to reach, but for QBs (especially in recent history), Roethlisberger, the Steelers and Black-n-Gold fans should not be worried.

The winning QB in two of the past three Super Bowls (Eli Manning & Drew Brees) was at least 30 years old.  In the past quarter-century, some other very famous names were able to win championships after hitting 30:  Joe Montana and John Elway each won twice, while Peyton Manning, Brad Johnson, Steve Young won as well.  Phil Simms started 14 games for the New York Giants in 1990, at the age of 36, before an injury ended his season (and a younger Jeff Hostetler guided the Giants through the Playoffs).  Conversely, a 32-year-old Doug Williams started just two regular-season games (in relief of younger QBs Jay Schroeder and Ed Rubbert) in 1987 before guiding Washington to a Super Bowl win. 
In the first 20 years of Super Bowl games, it almost seemed like a requirement that the starting QB of the winning team be at least 30.  It’s much easier to count the winning QBs who were still in their 20s than to make a list of the 30-and-over winners.
In order for him to join the 30-and-Over Winners Club, Roethlisberger will need some help.  Here are five birthday wishes he might have that will ensure him a spot among the winning Old-Timers:
  • A healthy ankle
    • When we saw him last – losing to Denver in the first round of the Playoffs – Roethlisberger was just a shell of himself, thanks to the brutal high-ankle injury he suffered in Week 14 against Cleveland.  In order for Roethlisberger to do the things he does best – evade rushers, buy time, make plays with his legs – he must have healthy ankles and feet.
Roethlisberger’s INT rate increased after his injury last season, and he was outplayed by Tim Tebow in the playoff loss.  High-ankle sprains heal though, so as long as there aren’t any complications during this offseason, Roethlisberger should be able to check into fall camp at 100%.
  • A good relationship with new OC Todd Haley
    • Much has been made of Haley’s communications problems or his inability to get along with colleagues and players, but all that matters for the Steelers' offense is that Roethlisberger and the new offensive coordinator make a connection.
Haley had great success in Arizona, with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals' offense.  There’s no reason to think he won’t duplicate that in Pittsburgh.  If anything, the Steelers have even more receiving weapons than the Cardinals did. …
  • Mike Wallace in a Steelers uniform
    • … Provided the Steelers keep speedster Mike Wallace on the roster.  The restricted FA will apparently not have the franchise tag attached to him.  Instead, it appears that Pittsburgh will tender him, which means other teams can make him an offer, which the Steelers would then have the opportunity to match.
While it appears WR Antonio Brown surpassed Wallace as the offense’s primary option as last season progressed, Wallace’s speed would be impossible to replace.  Wallace has averaged 18.7 YPR in his three seasons in Pittsburgh, with 3,206 yards and 24 TDs.  Wallace tied for 4thin the league last season with 7 receptions of 40+ yards and T-13thin 20-yard catches (with 18).
  • A healthy, cohesive offensive line
    • What QB doesn’t hope for a great offensive line?  And even though he excels at escaping pass rushers and making plays once things break down, it would still benefit Roethlisberger greatly to have a solid unit that remains (relatively) injury-free.
The Steelers have Marcus Gilbert, Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott coming back.  Center Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but he has also missed crucial games with injuries in his brief career (including Super Bowl XLVII).  The Steelers need to know they’ll have Pouncey available in crunch time.  It is unlikely that Max Starks will be back, and almost certain the Steelers will look to the Draft to bolster the line.
  • A 2012 Steelers defense that creates turnovers
    • Not many things make life on the field better for an offense than having the opportunity to turn turnovers into points.  The 2011 Pittsburgh defense simply could not create TO’s, though.
Despite ending the 2011 regular season with the top-ranked defense (in terms of yards allowed), the Steelers intercepted just 11 passes, and shockingly recovered only 4 fumbles.  A defense that more closely resembles their 2010 version (21 INTs and 14 fumble recoveries) would greatly benefit Roethlisberger and the offense.