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Ben Roethlisberger passes by Johnny Unitas

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 334 yards before leaving Sunday's game with a foot sprain. He'll miss a few weeks.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 334 yards before leaving Sunday's game with a foot sprain. He'll miss a few weeks. (Justin K. Aller / Getty Images)

Before he sprained his foot in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 38-35 win over the Oakland Raiders, Ben Roethlisberger had thrown for 334 yards.

That was more than enough to vault him past Baltimore Colts legend Johnny Unitas on the all-time passing list.

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Roethlisberger is now 14th all-time with 40,565 yards. Unitas had 40,239 between 1956 and 1973. Between the two is Joe Montana (40,551 passing yards).

If you're a Baltimore sports fan, it hurts a little to see Unitas fall down the all-time rankings thanks to a Steelers quarterback.

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Take solace in this, though: the game Roethlisberger plays in 2015 might be barely recognizable to The Golden Arm.

NFL teams average 36 passing attempts and 249.2 passing yards in 2015, according to Pro-Football Reference. In 1956, those averages were 22.8 attempts and 147.6 yards. It wasn't much better by the time Unitas retired after one season with the San Diego Chargers (24.3 and 140.9).

You already know that rules on pass interference, holding and tackling have shifted the advantage to NFL offenses. The number of penalty flags thrown on NFL Sundays makes some games downright hard to watch. And it's hard to tell if there's a dearth of talent in defensive backfields, or if players with the skillset to be starters in years past simply aren't good enough in today's game.

Teams average 23.5 points per game in 2015. In 1956, Unitas' first year with the Colts, the average was 20.4. When he retired with the San Diego Chargers in 1973, the average was 19.5.

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In case you need another reminder of how oriented toward the passing game football has become, of the NFL's top 20 all-time passers, seven are active players. Three are in the top 5 and the all-time leader, Brett Favre, played until 2010.

At the current rate, it won't be long before the record books are exclusively controlled by modern-era passers and receivers.

Unitas was ahead of his time and still stacks up well.

Don't be surprised if lots more quarterbacks pass him by.

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