There’s nothing quite like trying to analyze a season before it’s finished but so far Steeler Nation has been on quite a roller coaster ride for this 2012 season. If there’s anything we’ve learned from it, there are some players who we can’t and quite frankly don’t want to live without. No disrespect to the rest of the team because I’m sure all the players know by now that no fans love their players like Steeler Nation. There are just some guys in the Black & Gold that deserve special recognition so far for their tireless efforts day in and day out.
How can you select a player for the team MVP when they’ve missed games due to injury? Because he’s Ben Friggin Roethlisberger, that’s how. Ben is the Steelers offense. Again, not taking away anything from Charlie Batch’s performance last week in what will undoubtedly be known as “The Charlie Batch Ravens Game” and I don’t think anyone would have any concerns with Batch under center this Sunday against the Chargers. But when he’s healthy we want our #1 quarterback on the field no matter what. Until he went down with one of the most frightening sounding rib injuries we’ve ever heard of, Ben was having an NFL MVP-like season. His third down efficiency was top in the league by a long shot. He’s completing over 65% of his passes and has thrown only 4 interceptions. He was on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards this season with a quarterback rating of 100.00. The NFL “experts” can argue till they’re blue in the face about whether or not Ben deserves to be on the short list of “elite” quarterbacks in the league but make no mistake he’s definitely on the short list of quarterbacks who you want on your team to run a 2:00 drill to win a game.
There’s no denying that Heath Miller is appreciated in Pittsburgh. He’s appreciated all over Steeler Nation. The best test to see just how many yinzers are in the stands of a visiting stadium is having Heath Miller catch a pass and hear the roar of “Heeeeeeeeeaaaaath!” take over the crowd. If there are football gods Heath will be voted to a well-deserved Pro Bowl spot but not play due to preparing for the Super Bowl. Heath’s 7 touchdowns leads the team of receivers, tight ends, and running backs. Mostly because I firmly believe that Heath lives in the back of the endzone. All you have to do is throw it back there and he’ll catch it. When everyone leaves he puts up his tent back there and goes to sleep. The touchdown last week against the Ravens, which happened to be the equalizing touchdown, was a perfect example of the effort he puts into every play. When he’s not catching touchdowns in the back of the endzone or flying over the goal line and extending to hit the pylon, he plays an integral part in blocking for the now resurgent running game. Ok now one last one just for funzies, everyone join in: Heeeeeeeaaaaath!
Ryan Clark is in his eleventh season in the NFL but plays the game with the energy of a much younger player. If there is a wide receiver that dares catch a ball over the middle of the field, Clark will be there to remind him why that’s a bad idea. Clark is second on the team behind Larry Foote in tackles but has 2 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. With Polamalu playing only 5 quarters of football up until last Sunday, Clark is one of the main reasons why the Steelers have been doing something they have previously not been able to do and that is win without Polamalu on the field. Clark has battled back from two concussions so far this season to have only missed the first game in Denver. He’s even been wearing a gargantuan helmet to help protect himself from further concussions because there’s no way he’s about to let up on any hits. For a defense that saw the departure of leaders like James Farrior and Aaron Smith and saw Troy Polamalu go out with injury so early, Clark has stood out and has played some of his best football of his career so far this season. I can only assume that with a healthy Polamalu and Clark playing the way he has been is the last four games should be as entertaining as ever.
Most Valuable Non-Player: OL Coach Sean Kugler
Dom called it early on after #1 draft pick David DeCastro went down in the preseason that the team would have to play “Offensive Line Tetris” and boy have they. Not only did Kugler have the foresight, along with the rest of the coaching and training staff, to designate DeCastro for the IR with option to return, but the changes that have been made to accommodate the injuries and make the necessary adjustments along the way have been outstanding. Last week, the decision to put Doug Legursky in at center to move Maurkice Pouncey to guard to take over for the injured Willie Colon and the play of those men on the line attributed to the success Charlie Batch was able to have against the Ravens. The decision to move Colon from tackle to guard at the beginning of training camp has been one of the main reasons this line has performed as well as they have. The Steelers offensive line will always seem to get a bad rap, always seem to have to adjust to injuries, but Kugler has done an outstanding job this season making adjustments and pulling out the strengths of the big men on that line.
With just a quarter left in the season the Steelers are in position to make the playoffs for a third straight season with a Wild Card spot in hand right now but still the possibility of the AFC North title if they can finish a game ahead of the Ravens. Any fan of the NFL knows that it’s all about getting hot at the right time and December is the time to get hot and stay hot for post-season success. If the Steelers are going to make the kind of run we are all wishing they will, it will be because of these players and their contributions.
What are your thoughts Steeler Nation? Anyone I might have forgotten? Who out of these three players would your vote for team MVP go to?
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