The Pittsburgh Steelers are closing in on wrapping up what I would describe as one of their more interesting regular seasons in recent years. They got off to a great start at 4-1 only to have their quarterback go down and initiate a four-game losing streak. Since then, they have come back to win six in a row and have the longest active winning streak, locking up the division and the third seed in epic fashion on Christmas Day.
And much thanks is owed to two players that they spent all or most of last season without: former first-team All-Pros, center Maurkice Pouncey and running back Le’Veon Bell. The former missed all of the regular season a year ago with a fractured fibula. Bell missed two games for a suspension and 10—including the playoffs—due to a torn ACL.
Either one of them would be a fitting candidate for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, although I would expect that neither of them will get it. For Pouncey, in fact, this is not new territory. He tore his ACL in the first game in 2013, came back and had his best season in 2014, earning first-team All-Pro accolades. No award.
Now he comes back from a broken leg and once again plays at a Pro-Bowl level—as evidenced by the fact that he was voted in for his five Pro Bowl in the five healthy seasons that he has had—but don’t let that affect the voters’ opinions. Linemen are not very interesting picks, anyway.
As for Bell, for him to come back and lead the league in terms of yards from scrimmage per game, and average the second-most rushing yards per game, after tearing up his knee the year before, is impressive to say the least. Had he played a full season at his current yards-per-game average, he would break the all-time yards from scrimmage record.
Both Pouncey and Bell have remained pretty healthy throughout the year, though Pouncey did have to exit the first game against the Ravens after suffering a thumb injury, if I recall correctly. Outside of that one game, they have been workhorses, not missing a beat coming back from their serious injuries.
And fittingly, neither of them may take the field tomorrow against the Browns, as their quality play throughout the season has earned the Steelers a finale for which they have played well enough prior to it that it doesn’t mean anything to their playoff standings, which are already locked in.
I wouldn’t expect either of them to actually manage to win the award, as I said earlier, but I certainly think that either of them, based on what they were able to accomplish on the field this season, would be more than deserving. It’s hard to come back and play at a Pro-Bowl level the next year. The Steelers had a pair of teammates accomplish that feat.