For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the week has been filled with anticipation and anxiety over their playoff hopes, which lies in the hands of more than just their own. The players voted their team MVP also this week, and Antonio Brown got the nod. Fans around Steeler Nation have debated Brown’s MVP status and wonder why it did not go to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, or better yet, why their wasn’t a co-MVP result as their had been in the past when two players had considerably very good seasons.
Co-editor, Dom DiTolla and I thought it would be found to round out this week before the contest against the Browns with our own top five candidates for Steelers team MVP. Take a read, and lest us know what you think or who your own top five candidates would be.
Craig Gottschalk’s Top 5:
1) Ben Roethlisberger
2) Antonio Brown
3) Cameron Heyward
4) Troy Polamalu
5) Shaun Suisham
I’ve given my argument already for Ben Roethlisberger over Brown here. MVP can be interpreted as the player a team would miss the most if taken off the roster. Hands down that is Big Ben. Each week he has given this team any shot of winning. Had he not played in all 16 games – 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. Where would this team be with B. Gradkowski or Landry Jones under center? That right there is the ultimate litmus for MVP status. Brown had a great season and continues to prove he was the smarter choice over trying to retain Mike Wallace. Brown’s lack of leadership at times and his unwillingness to put his body on the line to extend plays were also factors that knocked him down to the #2 slot. While this could easily have been a co-MVP year with Roethlisberger and Brown, I still felt that Big Ben had it outright.
Heyward turned into Beast Mode in the second half of the season and turned his ‘first round bust status’ into ‘potential team MVP’ in just a matter of weeks. Heyward turned a very porous front three into a more effective run stopping and pass rushing line. While Brett Keisel sat with injury, Heyward stepped up on his own side and threw up some very solid stats. In that same vein, Polamalu turned a horrible 2012 season into a very good one in 2013. Despite being put closer to the box to help with run support more often than not, he as a very solid 11 passes defended and is tied for TFL with seven. We’ve seen the return of the ‘splash’ play with Troy’s two interceptions this season. He certainly looks way better than he has in the last two to three seasons. He’s picked up the slack on many ends of this defense, and were the Steelers brave enough to bench Clark and put in Shmarko Thomas, you would witness a very strong deep secondary.
Many folks probably question why a field goal kicker is on the team MVP list. Just goes to show how rough a year it really was. Suisham accounts for 1/3 of the Steelers points this season. That’s a lot for a kicker, and the Steelers are fortunate that Suisham had over a 90% field goal percentage (93%). That puts him fourth in the NFL for field goal % and he has one of the highest percentages of kickers inside 40 yards. He’s either won games for the team this season or single handedly kept them in games to put them into a position to win in the 4th quarter. Exactly what a field goal kicker should be doing, but I felt that Suisham’s kicks went above and beyond the regular call of duty simply because this offense was so anemic for much of the season.
Dom DiTolla’s Top 5:
1a) Ben Roethlisberger
1b) Antonio Brown
3) Troy Polamalu
4) Cameron Heyward
5) Kelvin Beachum
Big Ben has either set, is on pace to set or will challenge franchise records in completions (356), attempts (553), passing yards (4,082) and touchdowns (27) this fall. Brown has already set a single-season franchise mark for receiving yards (1,412), and has notched career-highs in receptions (101) and receiving touchdowns (eight). In addition to his work as a receiver, Brown has racked up 388 punt return yards and even took one back for a score against the Cincinnati Bengals. Brown will be on his way to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career next month.
Polamalu either leads the team or is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (seven), interceptions (two), forced fumbles (five) and passes defensed (11). Polamalu earned his eighth Pro Bowl nod for his play, and it is fantastic to see the veteran playing solid football. Finally a starter at midseason, Heyward has logged 56 tackles, 4.0 sacks and seven passes defensed during the 2013 campaign. The sky is the limit for this young player, and he could very well win the team’s MVP award in the near future. To his credit, Beachum stepped into the lineup as the team’s starting left tackle in Week 6 and has manned the position ever since. While his small frame and shorter arms have been exploited by some opponents, the former S.M.U. Mustang’s grit and technique have made him a reliable stop-gap on the blind-side. The offensive line’s Swiss Army knife, Beachum has played five different positions (left tackle, right tackle, center, left guard and tight end) this season for the Steelers.