As a rookie, you'd take being compared to Ben Roethlisberger every day of the week. After all, Big Ben went 13-0 as a rookie for the Steelers after making his first start in Week 3 of the 2004 season.
Blake Bortles is the man who has been compared to Roethlisberger for some time now, and it's easy to see why. Both were drafted in the first rounds of their respective draft classes and both stand at 6ft 5 inches. They are without doubt strong QB's with good arms, and have the ability to use their feet - despite their size - to extend plays.
On top of this they have the same agent and were both drafted with the intention of sitting their first season. However injuries saw Big Ben step up and start in week three of his rookie season and Bortles was moved up the depth chart simply because Chad Henne was no good and also started his first game in week three.
The comparison is not lost on Roethlisberger, who described Bortles as 'a young me'.
“I liked him coming out,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he was the most ready and a guy that I thought could be the best, just because I think the things he does: He can extend plays, he can stay in, he can throw the ball, he can throw on the run. He is an impressive-type young player. He makes some rookie mistakes but he also makes some plays that you don’t expect rookies to make in a good way.”
So with all of the similarities, why isn't Bortles having the same success Roethlisberger found as a rookie? The answer is simple. They walked into very differing situations. Roethlisberger walked into an experienced locker room boasting a host of veterans whilst Bortles walked into a team currently 0-3 coming off a 4-12 season:
"My situation was different than most because I had an older team," Roethlisberger said on Wednesday. "Look at what [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers did. He sat behind Brett Favre for a while. I think it helps those guys to sit for at least a year to kind of see and get a feel of what you want to do, because this is a much faster game than college."
Competitor wants to Compete
Sadly, Bortles doesn't have any really quality to sit behind and learn from so playing him this early was probably the right call. It's a learn on the job kind of situation for him:
“As a competitor, you want to go play. You want to go play now, and that was my mindset,” Bortles said. “I understood the reasoning for not playing. I think there are guys who have played right away who have been successful and guys who have played right away who have struggled."
"I think there are pros and cons to both sides of it. But I feel like I learn best by going through and doing it. I think you learn by making mistakes and what throws you can and can’t make and what decisions to make and not to make.”
Also, being thrown in at the deep end so early in his rookie season means he can play without any pressure. Everyone knows the Jags aren't a playoff team. He just needs to show improvements week after week and hope he gets some help from his coaches and team mates.
Its not going to get any easier for Bortles and the Jags as they face off against Big Ben and the Steelers this Sunday.