As NFL training camps are set to deploy here in a few short weeks, the media rush of fantasy football guides, season preview magazines and analysts’ predictions beginning raining in, with the majority of them the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard.
After coming up a yard short of a second consecutive Super Bowl, plus the addition of Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham, obviously the Seahawks will be favorites. With an offense revamped with weapons, the best young quarterback in the league, Andrew Luck, and his Colts will also be favored. And one can never sleep on the defending champion Patriots or the Broncos.
Like many other years though, the Steelers seem to be slipping under the radar, despite a juggernaut of an offense, led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. However, in the eyes of one analyst, they’re not being taken lightly, and neither is Roethlisberger’s MVP candidacy.
On CBS Sports’ Will Brinson’s short list of sleeper MVP candidates for the 2015 season, he lists Roethlisberger second only to Luck. An interesting fact Brinson cites is that only four different players have won the MVP award since the 2007 season, including multiple times by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and one by Adrian Peterson in 2012 following his breathtaking season. Obviously it’s a quarterback-driven league so they’re usually the favorites to take home the award, and of the offense lives up to expectations next season, who better than Big Ben?
A year after throwing for a league co-leading 4,952 yards, 32 touchdowns and 9 picks, Brinson notes that Roethlisberger may never have a statistical season such as the one he put together last year. However, heading into last year, with many calling for offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s head, who expected those type of numbers?
“He managed to take a step in Todd Haley’s offense, combining an impressive mental approach to the game with his already ridiculous physical skills,” Brinson said, according to CBSSports.com. “Roethlisberger looked like a quarterback who could easily manage to mature well, something that hardly seemed likely when you think about some of the hits and the style of play that marked the early part of his career.”
The fact that could also play into the equation, statistically speaking, is the fact that stud running back Le’Veon Bell will be shelved for a couple of games to begin the season, which may require Ben to go to the air even more. The positive with that is the emergence of second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who proved to be an offensive catalyst last year with his robust 21.1 yards-per-catch average. All-Pro Antonio Brown will continue to gobble up catches and yards, and Markus Wheaton looks to build on his solid sophomore campaign as well.
Brinson points to these as the major chips on the table which could propel Roethlisberger to a 5,000+ yard season, and if the defense is mediocre at best, the team could easily scratch the double-digit win barrier.
“If a few things break their way and Roethlisberger carries them to 12-14 wins, it’s an MVP season waiting in the wings,” he said.
If all of Brinson’s prognosis comes to fruition, there’s a very solid chance of the Steelers representing the AFC in Santa Clara, CA next February for Super Bowl 50.