The Pro Bowl rosters were announced last night, as you well know, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were well-represented for a change, though it was heavily lopsided to one side of the ball. The offense received Pro Bowl selections for all five players, all of them making repeat trips to the game.
It should be no surprise that the ‘Killer Bs’ all managed to make the Pro Bowl, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown both being named for the fifth time in their respective careers. Running back Le’Veon Bell, in spite of the fact that the missed the first three games of the season while serving a suspension, was also selected, this being his second time.
The Steelers will also be getting representation from not just one, but two offensive linemen, and that is quite notable because it is the first time that the team has been able to do that in over a decade. Their two repeat representatives—center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro, both first-round draft picks—are the first duo from Pittsburgh to make their way to the Pro Bowl since left guard Alan Faneca and center Jeff Hartings in 2005.
For Pouncey, playing in his seventh season, this is the fifth time that he has made it to the Pro Bowl, and the two seasons in which he did not reach that level of recognition were the two seasons that he missed all or virtually all of the season. He suffered a torn ACL early in the team’s first game in 2013, and last season, an Achilles injury followed by a myriad of complications prevented him from even making it onto the roster during the regular season.
Now, it should go without saying that this should be seen very much as the fruit of the Steelers’ labors, because they have invested heavily in rebuilding the offensive line. While the team’s current starters on the left side of the line both happen to be former undrafted free agents, Pouncey and DeCastro, as mentioned, are first-round selections, and right tackle Marcus Gilbert—on the verge of a Pro Bowl himself, and may well be an alternate—was a second-round pick in 2011.
Gilbert’s candidacy was likely hurt by the fact that he missed three games this season with a foot injury, and his play suffered a bit during his first couple of games back, but his play over the course of the past five games has helped elevate the offense to the level it’s playing at now.
It is fitting that it would be this season that the Steelers finally send a pair of linemen back to the Pro Bowl, because their play this year has been instrumental in the offense’s success perhaps more than it has been in over a decade.
The work of veteran left guard Ramon Foster and second-year left tackle Alejandro Villanueva should also not be overlooked, as the former is having easily one of his best seasons, and the latter has continued to grow and play with more aggressiveness throughout the year. The Pro Bowl nods for Pouncey and DeCastro should be seen as an affirmation of the total body of work the line as a whole has put together this year.