PITTSBURGH -- Bruce Gradkowski long admired Ben Roethlisberger from afar. The eight-year veteran quarterback is even more impressed after seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback on a daily basis.
"There's no doubt he's the best quarterback in this league," said Gradkowski, whom the Steelers signed last March to back up Roethlisberger. "Nothing against the other guys because there's so many talented guys out there like a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees. But Ben, the way he's able to move around and avoid rushes and then if he sits back in the pocket how accurate he is. It's hard for a defense to try and plan against him.”
Roethlisberger has also made even more of a believer out of Gradkowski because of the work he puts in off the field.
"I think he just does a great job of pushing his teammates to get better," said Gradkowski, who spent the previous two seasons with the Bengals. "That's what the quarterback position's all about is to make the guys around you better, to demand a high level of urgency and a championship effort. I think with him under center that's what it does around here.”
Roethlisberger has already won a pair of Super Bowls, and he will try to lead the Steelers back to the postseason after the team slipped to an 8-8 record in 2012. Roethlisberger, who is nearing the 30,000-yard passing milestone, appears poised for a big season provided he stays healthy.
Roethlisberger also has a better rapport with second-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and the 10th-year veteran looked sharp during training camp and in three preseason games.
"I do feel good physically so that's Key 1,"said Roethlisberger, who takes 29,844 career passing yards into Sunday's game against the Titans. "I feel like I got a good amount of work in that I'll be ready to roll. We want to come out and set an early tempo."
Gradkowski, who returned to his native Pittsburgh to play for the Steelers, is not just anxious to see how Roethlisberger does this season.
Gradkowski's younger brother is succeeding Matt Birk as the Ravens' center. And Gino Gradkowski will make his first career start Thursday night when the defending Super Bowl champions visit the Broncos.
"I'm proud of him," Gradkowski said of his brother. "He's done a great job."