The Pittsburgh Steelers have played eight games thus far this season, which means we’ve reached the official halfway point of the 2013 NFL season. And, while the result thus far for the good guys is much to be desired, there’s no harm in handing out some midseason awards, right? I’ve asked some of the writers of NPC to help contribute some of their own Steeler mid-season accolades. So kick back, relax, and realize that it’s all in good fun, folks.
Team MVP: Split – WR Antonio Brown & K Shaun Suisham. Admittedly Brown barely sneaks in here with the split decision. His lack of effort as far as getting that ‘extra yard’ by lowering his shoulder and making corners or safeties pay for taking him down, fair catching when no one is around, and his signature first down ball drop were all things that had the Annoying Meter pegged to the max. Suisham had been …. had been…. money up until the game in Oakland where he missed two field goals that ended up being deciding factors in the outcome of the game. However, Brown has led the team in receptions and yards and is on pace to become the franchise leader in both. Those kinds of numbers are at least redeeming the front office in their latest series of roster blunders – they almost look like they knew what they were doing in letting Mike Wallace walk and re-signing Brown. They both are critical to the offense putting points on the board and are sharing the midseason MVP. Honorable Mention: WR Jerricho Cotchery
Midseason Biggest Disappointment: LB Jarvis Jones. Jarvis Jones led the NCAA in sacks during his final season in Georgia. He had explosive speed off the ball and used that skill to get around offensive linemen. You would never know that looking at his stats this season. As Dom likes to point out, Jones has more Subway commercials (1) than sacks (0), which is a bit of a surprise for this rookie even though most folks figured that Jones wouldn’t have a huge impact were he to start his rookie season. But hardly being a blip on the radar is not good either, and has earned him our biggest disappointment nod. He certainly landed that spot after Tomlin benched him and replaced him with an already severely underperforming Jason Worilds. Jones needs reps to improve that’s for certain, but some are beginning to wonder if his lack of technique will ever get him to the quarterback before the ball is thrown 20 yards down the field. The Steelers, while LeBeau is still the defensive coordinator, rely heavily on their outside LB’s to get to the quarterback once the DL’s have begun collapsing the pocket. If he’s not doing that job, it becomes much easier for quarterbacks to slice & dice the soft zone. Honorable Mention: FS Ryan Clark
Biggest Midseason Surprise: DL Cam Heyward. After a couple disappointing seasons and quickly heading down Draft Bust Lane, Heyward has really turned things around in 2013. That’s been a fortunate turn of events not only for him but for the Steelers as well. Teammate and newly confirmed Draft Bust Lane resident, Ziggy Hood, has been underwhelming this season and has hurt the Steelers run stop and pass rush. Heyward has essentially replaced Hood, and good things happen on the field when Heyward takes his stance on the line of scrimmage. The hope is that Heyward continues to improve, and maybe, just maybe he becomes the linemen the Steelers and Steeler Nation were hoping for when he was drafted. Honorable Mention: C Fernando Velasco
Biggest Offensive Play: WR Antonio Brown’s One Handed TD. Antonio Brown has made some pretty great catches in his young career, but he quite possibly made the best he’ll ever have in during Week 3’s contest against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field. As you can see in the photo from the beginning of the article, Brown makes a sick one handed grab in the end zone for a touchdown. How he was able to pull the ball in, maintain control, and have the mind to get two feet down is special. A great play, and there should be more like those in Brown’s future.
Most Under Appreciated Player: WR Jerricho Cotchery. Cotch is clutch late in games. He was our honorable mention in the team MVP race, and at times he looks like he is the outright MVP for the offense. He consistently displays good hands and has been Big Ben’s go to guy late in games. His three touchdown performance against the Patriots was outstanding. If they could utilize Cotch more, the Steeler offense really could pick up tempo in its short game. Cotchery has no problems running those crossing routes and finding the open spots in zone coverages. He doesn’t get much credit by pundits or even some fans. He’s a great guy to have in the locker room and is becoming an important asset of keeping this offense on life support before it completely flatlines. Under appreciated and undeservedly so. Honorable Mention: Lawrence Timmons