Black and Gold Mid-Season Awards

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Last week, I noticed a bunch of sites doing mid-season reviews. Great except week eight isn’t really the mid-way point any more. With the bye, most teams don’t play their eighth game until week nine. Since I’ve always been a stickler for details, here are my Pittsburgh Steelers Mid-Season Awards, which we’ll call The Chinnys.

Chinny For Most Pleasant Surprise of the Year:  Maurkice Pouncey

From Mike Webster to Dermontti Dawson to Jeff Hartings, the Steelers have a tradition of excellence at center. Since Hartings sudden retirement in 2006, the position has been in disarray. And as the center has floundered, so has the entire offensive line. If the O-line is the brick wall which protects the fortress, then the center is the keystone which holds the whole thing together.

Yes, Pouncey was a first-rounder. Yes, he was the eighteenth pick in the entire draft. But expecting a rookie to start, let alone play at an All-Pro level, was asking a lot. The center has to recognize the defense and change protection schemes accordingly. It’s a lot of responsibility beyond simply snapping the ball and blocking your man. Pouncey has handled it all and then some.

Chinny For Most Unpleasant Surprise of the Year:  Bryant McFadden

I live-blogged the draft this past April and other than Pouncey in the first round, the biggest buzz from Steeler Nation was over the trade bringing B-Mac back from Pittsburgh West Arizona.  With good reason as William Gay plays corner about as well as he raps.

Unfortunately, the expected improvement hasn’t materialized.  In fact, it’s gotten worse.  The Steelers are currently ranked 24th against the pass as opposed to last year when the much-criticized secondary finished 16th.   B-Mac played well during the Super Bowl run of 2008 but that is looking more and more like an anomaly as time goes on.

The Steelers should have made a play for Antonio Cromartie, a legit shutdown corner who the Jets stole for a lousy 3rd round draft pick.  I mean, let’s not pretend like the Steelers really give a crap about character any more.  Cro hasn’t committed any crimes except banging groupies while riding bareback, anyway.   Think what an unbelievable defense we could’ve had for a middling draft choice and a box crate of Trojan Ultra-Thins.

Chinny for Coach Of the Year (Steelers staff only):  Sean Kugler

When your previous O-line coach’s biggest claim to fame is sending links to Japanese bukkake videos to Dan Rooney, your bar is pretty low.  And having a superstar rookie like Maurkice Pouncey doesn’t hurt.  But when a line which gave up 50 sacks last year cuts that number to 16 half way through this season, the offensive line coach must be doing something right.  Especially considering all the injuries Kugler has had to deal with.

Willie Colon was lost during OTAs.  Flozell Adams was brought in and switched positions.  Trai Essex has missed significant time with an ankle.  Kemo has battled injury.  And I’m sure you’ve all heard Max Starks was placed on injured reserve yesterday, ending his season.

The line has been absolutely decimated to the point Matt Spaeth was practicing his blocking technique last Monday in case they needed him to come in and play tackle.  And yet no matter who shuffles in and who shuffles out, the line play has remained pretty steady.

Chidi Awouma Memorial Special Teams Chinny:  Jeff Reed

Chidi was a special teams ace who seldom failed to deliver.  I was going to go positive with this award, giving it to Emmanuel Sanders for averaging 26 yards yards per kick return and causing that pivotal fumble on Monday’s opening kickoff.  However, Stefan Logan, now with the Lions, is averaging 30 yards per return and has a 105 yard TD to his credit so I can’t really say we upgraded in that area.

Therefore, I’m going negative and giving the Chidi Chinny to Jeff Reed as his farewell present.  I suppose he may be back next season but I wouldn’t count on it.   Skippy was tagged as the team’s Franchise Player during the off-season, then whined about wanting to be one of the game’s highest paid kickers, then whined some more when the season started and he didn’t receive a long-term contract.  He’s only hit 70% of his FGs this season, a career low, while missing clutch kicks in the Baltimore, New Orleans, and Cincy games.

Chinny For Anti-MVP:  Troy Polmalu

I love Troy.  He’s a great player and a true gentleman.  However, something has gone terribly awry with him this season.  After the Titans game where he made that incredible flying tackle on Kerry Collins at the goal line, I was ready to start a Troy4MVP campaign on Facebook.  Where has he been since then?

He’s been a non-factor.  Troy’s made a career fooling QBs into thinking he was doing one thing when he was doing another.  He’s not fooling anybody this year.   In fact, his guessing in the New Orleans game left guys wide open on several big plays.   You know how many sacks he has this year?   NONE.  ZERO.  ZIP.  BUPKISS.

But the crowning moment of suck was Monday when he got his ass hair handed to him by Peko on that goal line stand.  I hope Head & Shoulders gets tire tracks out ’cause he got trucked.

Once upon a time, you could count on Troy making one or two big game-changing plays every week.  This season, I can’t think of any since the second game of the year.  I grant you part of it is offenses staying away from him and part of it is him dropping into coverage a lot more to help our crappy secondary.  But we spent an entire off-season thinking, “If we only had Troy, we wouldn’t give up fourth quarter leads.”  Troy’s back and guess what?  We’re still struggling in the fourth quarter.  This defense is very good but for it to be great, we need Troy to be Troy.

Chinny For MVP:  Lawrence Timmons

NPC readers picked Timmons and I wholeheartedly agree.   It’s funny, last season many of us were discussing if Timmons could be considered a bust.   He certainly had a rough first year as a starter.  When the Steelers re-signed Larry Foote, many (including myself and the legendary Stan Savran) felt Foote should start in the base defense with Timmons playing on passing downs.

This year, Timmons has been an absolute beast.   He leads the team with 58 tackles, including 3 sacks and a forced fumble.   In addition, he has 2 INTs and 6 passes defensed, thus proving he’s as valuable dropping back as rushing the passer.  He’s been stout against the run and is so fast that he’s capable of covering tight ends and slot receivers.   Clay Matthews, who most feel is the front-runner for Defensive Player of Year, is a fantastic player but compare their stats.  Matthews racked up 10.5 sacks but only has 28 tackles and 2 passes defensed.

There isn’t a linebacker in the league who can do what Timmons does.  In a way, Timmons is almost the new Troy Polamalu.   Troy used to be the guy who played all over the field and you never knew where he was going to attack from.   Now it’s Timmons who lines up like he’s going to blitz but falls back into coverage or moves like he’s been fired from a cannon in running a RB down from behind.  When someone as dense as Peter King acknowledges that LT is the best linebacker on a team filled with great linebackers, you know he’s something special.

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