The Pittsburgh Steelers named their team MVP earlier this week, and it appeared that Steeler Nation was a bit split on the team’s decision to vote WR Antonio Brown as team MVP. Some championed Brown as being the no-brainer decision due to his franchise record setting stats this season. Others wondered why Ben Roethlisberger didn’t get the nod from teammates. And others still, like our own Dom, felt that it should have been a co-MVP between the two. And, while I don’t believe the players intentionally insulted Big Ben or that this is some sort of locker room posturing, it is confusing why there was not a co-MVP like there has been in the past. Or even yet, why Roethlisberger wasn’t sitting alone at the top.
The most consistent thing I’ve seen while fans debate back and forth about Brown vs. Roethlisberger is that Brown had a record breaking season and had the stats to back up being the MVP. That’s all well and good, but MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. When considering who is the MVP, I’ve always felt that you had to ask yourself who would the team miss the most if they were not part of this roster? Who is the player with the biggest impact on their team week in and week out? What would the win/loss column look like if you took that player away? That’s your most valued player.
When addressing those questions while considering who is the team MVP, I believe the answer becomes Ben Roethlisberger.
I’m not trying to take anything away from AB’s accomplishments or the value placed on him by teammates. But, when looking at that roster and asking yourself who would be missed the most if taken off this roster, without a doubt it’s Big Ben. If you want to look at statistics, his numbers have not been as flashy as Brown’s, but he improved tremendously over the season. If he stays on pace for yards per game in passing, he’ll have his highest yardage total in his career. This is his second highest TD season in his career and highest since 2007. He broke Terry Bradshaw’s franchise record for career TD passes this season. Despite fans thinking he’s thrown too many picks this season, his 12 INT’s in 553 pass attempts is the fourth lowest percentage in his career and comes nowhere near his 23 INT’s from 2006. If we return the argument back to what MVP really means, Big Ben is the leader of this football team and gives this team the best chance to win week in and week out.
For the first time since 2008, he’s played in all 16 games this season, and maybe that’s why he’s fallen under the radar by so many fans in this debate. The last four seasons, fans have witnessed other quarterbacks try to take snaps under center for our beloved Black & Gold, and cringe when players like Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich look lost and throw lame ducks around the field. Charlie Batch was the only reliable backup for the Steelers, but there was no way he was close to Roethlisberger’s caliber of play. Can you imagine what the Steelers would have looked like this season if Ben was out long term either through injury or trade? If the preseason was any indication, the Steelers backups of Bruce Gradkowski and Landry Jones, would have been shredded week in and week out. Instead of a potential 8-8 team with even a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs in Week 17, without a doubt this squad would be a less than four win team.
I think you have to consider some negatives of Antonio Brown’s as well when considering MVP. People might think I’m a bit biased against AB because I’ve always dogged him for the stupid first down ball drop that he does – especially when this team was 0-4. That kind of swagger doesn’t sit well. That aside, there are questions about his appeared refusal to return punts when he had the space to do it and also his bias of sacrificing the extra yards instead of sacrificing his body – when was the last time this guy lowered his shoulder to get a few extra yards instead of diving to the ground (before being touched) or stepping out of bounds (before being touched)? That’s not MVP caliber to me even though AB has put up some big receiving numbers this season. And really, his biggest on the team is receptions and yards. Teammate Jerricho Cotchery surpasses him on TD catches and almost surpasses him on YPC. Where is the ‘big play’ threat that most MVP’s possess? Out of 15 games, he’s only had five games with a 40+ yard reception and only two games with multiple TD receptions (2 per game). Before crowning Brown, ask yourself this: If Antonio Brown was not on this squad, how many more games would the Steelers have lost?
For those that still think Brown is the outright MVP, I think you should look at other teams for some similar context. AB is the #1 receiver and has certainly proven that he is worth to this team way more than Mike Wallace could ever dream of. But he needs a talented gun slinger to feed him the ball. If you look at teams like the Packers and Texans, they have similar talent at the wide receiver position. But when QB’s such as Matt Flynn and Matt Schaub are under center, the production falls off. You think Jordy Nelson is team MVP over Aaron Rodgers? It was clear that Rodgers was the heart and soul of the Packers due to their huge drop off in points and wins when he became injured this season. Sure Flynn helped them climb back to a position to win the NFC North, but he’s no Rodgers. And, Flynn would never get team MVP. That honor is for a guy like Rodgers who gives that team the best chance to win every single week…. just like Roethlisberger does for the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have had great seasons this season. But, I think Roethlisberger edges Brown for the outright team MVP. His teammates didn’t think so. They gave the honor to Brown. At the very least, it should have been a co-MVP split.