In my efforts to look at the roster with complete objectivity, it became painfully obvious that the majority of Pittsburgh Steelers players are either underrated or at least held in accurate esteem.
Drawing from this conclusion, one can already make one of two assessments:
1) My loyalty has blinded me into misguided beliefs that I defend behind the veneer of objectiveness.
2) The winning track record across many recent seasons for the Steelers is no coincidence, considering the quality of players across their roster, many of whom do not get the full credit they deserve.
For those who believe the former, I warn that the rest of this article may not be for you, and a listing of overrated Steelers may better satiate your needs.
And fans belonging in the latter category should know that the greatness of the Steelers isn't exclusively the result of marquee players making headlines. In fact, there is so much of the roster not appropriately lauded that narrowing the list down to five players without at least naming a few honorable mentions seemed a disservice.
If anything speaks well to the depth of talent on the Pittsburgh roster, it's that!
These are the folks that didn't crack the list, but I believe they embody what it is to be, say, mildly underrated.
Jerricho Cotchery spent much of 2011 working to return from injury. As the year progressed and the regular season gave way to the sudden death (and it sure was sudden this past January) of the postseason, Cotchery began showcasing his timely playmaking ability.
His 23-yard tying touchdown against the Broncos was a possible preview of coming attractions. Cotchery has great hands, supreme physical gifts and the ability to make the tough grab against all odds. With a full offseason to develop with the rest of the offense—in addition to the loss of the most physical and veteran receiver on the roster—Cotchery may prove to be one of the more underrated players on the roster heading into 2012.
Ryan Clark is often recognized for his ability to "lay the lumber" on receivers, serving notice that the Pittsburgh defensive backfield truly is Steelers territory. However, his synchronicity with Troy Polamalu has helped the Black and Gold finish at or near the top of the league in pass defense or average yards surrendered per opponent pass for seasons.
Also, Troy Polamalu is one of the greatest hybrid players in the game today, fulfilling defensive roles across the board. While his disruptive nature is to the benefit of the Steelers, his role only works if his "backup quarterback" in the backfield serves as a stopgap over the middle of the field. Left on an island, Clark hold his own more often than not, an attribute most fans forget in light of his hard hits.
LaMarr Woodley may be underrated, but it is only to a lesser degree. The national spotlight has begun to shine a bit more brightly on the superb outside linebacker who wreaks havoc in defensive backfields. Just ask Tom Brady how the 30th of October worked out for his squad.
With Woodley, the Steelers got pressure on opposing passers.
Without Woodley, they didn't.
Plain and simple.
Lastly, Brett Keisel may have once been viewed as the guy that backed up Aaron Smith, and he definitely is more renowned outside of the 'Burgh for his beard than his bravado. Yet he is a yeoman on the gridiron, consistently stuffing the run nearly as well as Smith and always finding his way around the football in many key moments.
His quick burst at the snap (watch him exclusively during a few defensive series this season and you'll see what I mean), not to be confused with a quick burst off the line (e.g., Dwight Freeney), often gives him early leverage, allowing him to stuff runners off-tackle behind the line of scrimmage or disrupt plays in the opposing backfield.