The last time I checked, the most important ‘stat’ in football is winning. Granted, the Pro Bowl is meant for the overachievement of individuals in the NFL – and sometimes that means guys (like Darrelle Revis) from an 8-7 team get selected. But, what is as annoying and inconsistent as the BCS, is the Pro Bowl overlooks players who contribute in huge ways that leads directly to their team winning. The voting block looks at the big stats and overlooks the intangibles of what makes that player great for a particular season. Thus why four Steelers got snubbed.
There are also your ‘popular’ players out there that somehow make it year in and year out. They at one time had fantastic numbers in their early careers, thus gaining them popularity among the masses. Now they don’t have as much impact as they used to. Exhibit A: Champ Bailey (8-7 Broncos). Back in 2006 Bailey had 10 interceptions and over 70 tackles – pretty impressive stats. Defensive Player of the Year worthy (but not quite). Thus Bailey’s name was cemented as being a force to reckon with at corner. The next five seasons has seen a significant drop off in his ‘output.’ He has never breached five interceptions in a single season, less passes defended and less tackles. Yet somehow, even after missing four games this season, he barely has 30 tackles and two picks. Pro Bowl numbers? Not really considering Eric Weddle (Chargers) and Kyle Arrington (Pats) both have seven picks this season and were left off the roster. So there is certainly an inconsistency when it comes to stats and getting in to the Big Luau. The Broncos are also 20th in the league in pass yards allowed and 25th in points allowed – so what is it exactly that good ol’ Champ is doing??
The notion of context to stats would also be lovely when considering Pro Bowlers. Exhibit B: Derrick Johnson (Chiefs). Johnson has an astounding 126 tackles this season. Wow! Really. That’s a lot of hitting. But, it’s certainly not the most tackles. He certainly has a presence on the field and has the good intangibles of an inside LB. But when you play for a team that is 6-9 and have skill, then you are certainly going to get more tackels and more opportunities to make a play. When your part of the team is on the field for way than your offense, you have to make more tackles. If you look at the rest of the leaders of the NFL in tackles, they all come from teams with sub .500 records. Why, because their defense on average is on the field more because they can’t stop the opposing offense from driving the field. One of the exceptions to that trend – NaVarro Bowman (49ers). And, he got snubbed.
Thus, I present to you the four Steelers who got
screwed snubbed in this year’s Pro Bowl voting: Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley.
Let me get Harrison and Woodley out of the way first. Both have missed significant time this season due to injury/suspension. Yet, their numbers have them poised for big numbers. Do you think that all of a sudden their production would just fall off the table? Doubtful. But they didn’t get a certain number of sacks or tackles – so their stats are their stats. That’s going to be the argument from most folks. But, the Steelers defense is ranked #1 in the league… AGAIN. Why is that? It’s because of guys like Harrison and Woodley – with 18 combined sacks, 95 tackles, two forced fumbles and one interception. They step up and make the plays that help keep this team #2 in points allowed 14.5. That’s astounding considering the focus on boosting offensive output globally in the league this season.
Brett Keiselhas had a really great season for the Steelers considering he’s only played 13 out of 16 thus far. 45 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and five (yes five!) passes defended. That’s right, Keisel is one of the best defensive ends in the league who can drop back in pass coverage. Plus he’s really good at timing a QB’s throw and getting his hands and arms in the way. Should have made the Bowl, except everyone is still on the 2004 16 sack drug. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a good DE. He’s had ten sacks the last three seasons. But that’s all he can do. Does that really make him one of the BEST DE’s in the AFC? Absolutely not.
Finally, Ike Taylor probably gets screwed the most out of the Steelers. As part of the #1 passing defense in the league, Taylor has put his money where his mouth is and is living up to his new contract. Face Me Ike, though doubted during the offseason (by people such as myself) has been practically lights out this season. I contend that Taylor Island is harder to survive on than Revis Island. He has taken on some of the top receivers in the AFC under offensive powerhouses such as New England and shut down guys like Wes Welker, et al. He only has two interceptions this season, but he has defended 13 passes. Those 42 tackles aren’t really from him tackling his cover guy either - they are more from him breaking off of his receiver and pursuing the ball carrier. There’s no way that guys like Champ Bailey have contributed more to their team than someone like Taylor. So why does he get snubbed?
As most things All-Star like, the voting system is geared towards the fans. Who wants to watch a bunch of unfamiliar overachieving football players who deserved to be their? Certainly not the general public and advertisers who pay for the broadcast of that game. That’s why there’s fan voting to begin with. If your favorite ‘superstar’ gets in then you’ll more likely be enticed to watch. Lame. This epidemic is worse in the NFL because the game truly means nothing. At least for baseball, the winning team gets home field advantage in the World Series. Kinda cool.
What can the NFL do? Nothing really since it banks, literally bank$, on picking a neutral site for its Super Bowl. Fine, I can live with that. But then the next step that must happen is that all the pundits and all the HOF stats need to throw Pro Bowl appearances out the window. This guy is more elite than another guy because he has more Pro Bowl selections? What? How does that even make sense when put into the context of knowing how players are selected? He’s more elite because he’s more popular? (Ahem ahem, Philip Rivers vs Ben Roethlisberger) I know fans take up only a third of the votes, but really…. Champ Bailey??????
Might as well get rid of the Pro Bowl altogether then. It’s an afterthought through and through.