The NFL Network completed their annual ranking of the top 100 players of the previous season this week, as voted on by the players themselves. Not surprising Aaron Rodgers was voted #1 overall by the players, with Tom Brady dropping to #4. So where did our Black & Gold find themselves among the 100? There were 6 Steelers named on the entire list. The highest ranking belonged to Troy Polamalu at 19 with LaMarr Woodley ranking the lowest of the Steelers selected at 63. Naturally, each member of Steeler Nation is going to have gripes about who didn’t make the list and where the Steelers ranked. I can’t believe Ben was ranked at #30 myself but let’s review the highlights of the players who did make the list.
#63 LaMarr Woodley: Woodley missed a significant amount of 2012 but was still voted by his peers to the top 100 because in the games he did play in, he was a beast. Woodley’s best performance of the season was at Arizona where he had 7 tackles, 2 sacks, and forced a safety through a grounding penalty in the endzone. It was a difficult feat getting both Woodley and Harrison healthy on the field at the same time throughout the season, but the times Woodley had to compensate for no Harrison, he definitely made his presence known to the opposition. After a slow start and most of Steeler Nation complaining Woodley was too relaxed after inking his big contract, Woodley exploded and was on pace for another double digit sack year. As it ended, Woodley played in 10 out of 16 games and earned 9 sacks, 39 tackles, and 1 interception. If Woodley and Harrison stay healthy throughout the season this year, look for them to resume their contest of who can get the most sacks.
#49 Maurkice Pouncey: After only 2 seasons Pouncey has established himself as one of the best centers in the NFL. Pouncey plays with an aggression usually reserved for the other side of the football, but necessary when it comes with the job of protecting Ben Roethlisberger. Pouncey has spent some time of the injury report his first two seasons with ankle problems, most likely due to the intensity level he plays at, and lack of support from the remainder of the line, but still has established himself as a premier center in the league in spite of injury problems. No doubt with an improved and younger line, a healthy Pouncey will only continue to improve and live up to the tradition of great centers to wear the Black & Gold.
#47 Mike Wallace: What else can be said about Mike Wallace’s speed? Wallace, formerly known as the “One Trick Pony”, has become Ben’s favorite target whether it’s a bubble screen (everyone’s favorite) or a bomb down field, he can get separation like no other. Wallace can outrun damn near every secondary in the NFL. While he had a more productive first half of the season than the second half, Wallace is considered one of the top receivers in the NFL, just not contract-wise just yet.
#30 Ben Roethlisberger: Josh Cribbs of the Brownies describes Ben as having the “It factor”. When attempting to take Ben down, you had better come correct or you’re going to miss him. Ben can elude and escape a sack like no one else in the league can. Ben is often underestimated because the Steelers success is rarely attributed to just him like other quarterbacks get. The usual comments are that the Steelers defense is the biggest strength, or the running game carries the offense. Ben will always be criticized for his poor performance in Super Bowl XL, while no one remembers his outstanding play in the playoffs and regular season leading up to that Super Bowl victory.
#29 James Harrison: AKA Deebo, AKA Gorilla, and a whole host of other silly nicknames listed by teammate Ike Taylor, there’s no denying that Harrison is one of the most feared defensemen in the league. So feared, in fact, Matt Light OL of the Patriots for some reason thinks Harrison is a defensive end and not a linebacker. Harrison’s hit on Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was replayed for his segment (interesting how the NFL replays the “violent hits” when it suits them) and Fitzpatrick describes how he thinks of James each time he takes a golf swing because he still feels the pain from that hit. Bottom line is Harrison is not a dirty player but an intensely skilled player who with his low center of gravity makes it almost impossible to block unless you hold him. His lower body strength is massive and he can beat a statue in a staring contest.
#19 Troy Polamalu: Troy should be listed as the top safety in the league but for some reason is behind Ed Reed by 3 spots. There’s no doubt that Troy Polamalu is a game changer. Whenever a big play is needed to win, tie, or just swing momentum of a game out pops Polamalu from nowhere to sack, intercept, or fly into the play. When you’re sitting on the edge of your couch wringing your Terrible Towel between your hands and praying to the football gods that something good will happen, Polamalu is there to deliver. Rashard Mendenhall describes Troy as a superhero and Ratbirds wide receiver Jacoby Jones is right on point when he says, “I wonder what God was thinking when he made that guy.” Well, Jacoby, he was thinking “I shall create the greatest safety ever to play football, and he shall play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also he will have gloriously long flowing hair.”
Well that’s all for the Top Steelers for 2012 as voted on by the rest of the players in the league. You can argue the rankings and omissions till the cows come home when it’s all said and done, we don’t really care if the other players like us do we? There’s nothing Steeler Nation likes more than proving people wrong, especially people working for the NFL network (looking at you Sapp). I predict a whole lot more Steelers will be on the 2013 list, with at least 1 in the top 10. What do you think, Steeler Nation?
Follow me on Twitter @Kimmy_KimKimM and follow all of NPC’s posts @NicePickCowherC