By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be sending two constituents this year to the Pro Bowl to represent their team. Considering they’re currently 7-8, that might sound about right, though when one considers that the 2-14 Kansas City Chiefs sent more than that to the Pro Bowl last year, questions might be raised.
Certainly, the two representatives are more than deserving, those being safety Troy Polamalu—who had a sort of under the radar season—and wide receiver Antonio Brown, who also made it as a punt returner, partly due to the fact that the Pro Bowl no longer has kickoffs, making kickoff ability irrelevant.
Brown is having one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. His 101 receptions with a game to spare is second only to the 112 of Hines Ward, and he’s also just the second to reach triple digit receptions. His 1412 receiving yards is the most in team history.
Meanwhile, he trails only Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson in yards, and Pierre Garcon and Andre Johnson in receptions. His eight touchdowns is among the top 15 among receivers—and is also a career-high. His 27 receptions of at least 20 yards—six of at least 40—is tied for fourth-most, if my quick figuring is correct.
That’s not even to mention his punt return ability, which also ranks among the top players in the league, and which I’ve also previously detailed.
As for Polamalu, he has had some high-profile mistakes this season, which has certainly damaged his public relations with the Pittsburgh faithful this year, but he’s had a strong season overall and undoubtedly deserves his eighth-career Pro Bowl nomination, though I’m sure he’s more pleased to have played a full 16-game schedule.
While his work in deep coverage has at times been spotty—it always looks bad when he guesses wrong—he has done some of the best work of his career against the run, which has coincided with him sacrificing for the team by playing linebacker in the quarters package.
While he is known for his interceptions, meanwhile, he has quietly forced five fumbles this season—he had seven in his 10 previous seasons combined. That included what was essentially the game winner against Green Bay when he stripped the ball from Matt Flynn deep in Green Bay territory, setting up the eventual go-ahead touchdown. His two sacks and two interceptions, including a pick-six, certainly don’t hurt his cause either.
When you look at the rest of the roster, however, you really don’t see many spectacular candidates. Many of the team’s best players had down years, or were injured, such as Lawrence Timmons and Maurkice Pouncey.
Certainly Ben Roethlisberger deserved a Pro Bowl nomination, and David DeCastro was worth consideration, though the latter did miss some time and struggled early on after missing most of his rookie season. According to Bleacher Report, in fact, both are listed as alternates, though it doesn’t specify which alternate.
The only other alternates at quarterback listed are Aaron Rodgers, who’s missed half the season, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton, and Matthew Stafford. Of that group, I would expect Roethlisberger to be at least the second alternate behind Stafford, if not first.
Among the guards are Josh Sitton, Alex Boone, Evan Mathis, and Zane Beadles. I would likely place him second behind Mathis, who probably deserved a nod over Logan Mankins, though his missed time might also play a factor. Still, it’s nice to see his season recognized in his second year, and his third year should only be better.