Pittsburgh Steelers: 9 Players That Deserve the Most Pro Bowl Consideration
The Steelers (6-4) have a one-game lead on the Cincinnati Bengals for the sixth and final playoff spot. They have overcome a 2-3 start and can think about the playoffs because of the performance of several players who are worthy of Pro Bowl consideration.
Pro Bowl votes can be cast until Dec. 17, according to NFL.com, and the teams will be announced Dec. 26.
The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 27 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Ideally, these Steelers would prefer to have a Pro Bowl honor on their resume, but bypass the trip to Hawaii and fly to New Orleans a week later for Super Bowl XLVII.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB
Roethlisberger had 17 touchdown passes and four interceptions when he went down. He remains in the top three among AFC quarterbacks with a 100.0 passer rating and a 66.1 completion percentage, according to Pro Football Reference. He's second only to Tom Brady in the conference with interceptions on just 1.3 percent of his pass attempts.
Roethlisberger's absence might knock him out of the MVP race, but if he comes back at some point in the regular season, he'll still have more than half a season under his belt. That's enough of a body of work to make him Pro Bowl-worthy.
Maurkice Pouncey, C
The drafting of Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 began a slow, steady improvement of the Steelers' offensive line.
Pouncey was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2011 even though the offensive line was still a work in progress.
Even though the offensive line couldn't prevent an injury to Ben Roethlisberger, its overall pass protection has improved this season. Roethlisberger has been sacked on 5.4 percent of his pass attempts according to Pro Football Reference, the lowest of his career.
The offensive line also has paved the way to an improved ground game. After rushing for 100 yards only once in their first five games, the Steelers have broken the century mark in four of their past five games. They had a 100-yard rusher in three straight games for the first time since 2007, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
After being maligned for so many years, the Steelers offensive line is turning into a strength, and Pouncey is anchoring the group.
Willie Colon, OG
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Many will automatically dismiss Willie Colon from Pro Bowl consideration because of his 11 penalties.
The operative word here is "consideration," and Colon deserves a look because of his performance after transitioning from right tackle to left guard.
Statistics aside, Colon passes the eye test with flying colors despite the flying yellow flags. His tenacity is one of the reasons the Steelers offensive line is the best that it's been since 2005.
Heath Miller, TE
Heath Miller is well on his way to having his best season statistically since 2009, the only time he's made the Pro Bowl.
After 10 games, Miller has caught 45 passes. The only Steeler with more receptions is Mike Wallace with 46.
Even if Miller doesn't match the 76 catches he had in 2009, he only needs seven more receptions for his second-highest total in a season. Miller is more likely to surpass his career high of seven touchdowns in a season. He has six so far.
Miller has a chance to catch Gronkowski in those categories with Gronkowski likely out four to six weeks because of a broken forearm, according to The Sporting News.
The Steelers' eighth-year tight end also has played a role in the offensive line's improvement with his blocking.
Shaun Suisham, K
Shaun Suisham shouldn't promise his family any trips to Hawaii, but he's got a long-range shot at the Pro Bowl. He might be the Steelers' most pleasant surprise this season.
Suisham has missed just one of his 22 field-goal attempts this season, and that was a 54-yarder.
He's won two games this season with field goals. He kicked a 23-yarder in overtime to beat the Chiefs, but even more impressive was his game-winner against the Eagles. With the game's outcome squarely on his shoulders, Suisham made a 34-yarder as time expired to give the Steelers a 16-14 win at Heinz Field. If Suisham didn't make that kick, the Steelers would have lost three straight and gone to Cincinnati 1-4.
Suisham's field-goal percentage is third in the AFC behind the Browns Phil Dawson and the Raiders Sebastian Janikowski. Dawson has made all 19 of his field-goal attempts, including five of 50 yards or longer.
While Suisham has made all six of attempts between 40 and 49 yards this season, he doesn't have as big a leg as Dawson or Janikowski. Suisham is 14th in the AFC with touchbacks on 30 percent of his kickoffs, according to NFL.com. That could hurt him in the Pro Bowl voting, even if he's having the best year of his career.
Larry Foote, ILB
It's hard to deny a Pro Bowl spot to the leading tackler on the NFL's top-ranked defense.
Larry Foote's 71 combined tackles have helped the Steelers defense lead the league in fewest yards allowed per game, according to Pro Football Reference. Foote has also forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles. Only 12 players in the NFL have recovered more fumbles.
The 32-year-old made an immediate impression on Pro Bowl voters in the season-opening loss at Denver. He had nine combined tackles, one sack, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Foote's sack in that game was the first of three this season, which is second on the team.
Foote has remained consistent throughout the season, with at least six combined tackles in each game. He's made seven combined tackles in each of the last three games, according to NFL.com, and deserves consideration for his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Ryan Clark, FS
The last time the Steelers were without Troy Polamalu for an extended period of time, they collapsed.
Will Allen has filled the strong safety position admirably for the injured Polamalu, but Ryan Clark has come the closest to replicating Polamalu's role as the sweeping defender.
Clark always seems find his way to the ball on defense and deserves much of the credit for ensuring that the Steelers defense weathers Polamalu's absence this year better than it did in 2009, when a five-game losing streak dashed Pittsburgh's playoff hopes.
The 33-year-old leads the Steelers with 52 total tackles and is second with 67 combined tackles, according to NFL.com. Clark has one interception and six passes defensed. His career high of eight passes defensed came with the Steelers in 2009.
Clark is a leading candidate to be the Steelers' defensive MVP this season, and deserves to be a Pro Bowler.
Keenan Lewis, CB
Now, Keenan Lewis isn't the only one putting his name and "Pro Bowl" in the same sentence.
The fourth-year cornerback predicted in May that he'd make the Pro Bowl, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
It turns out he's not all talk.
Lewis leads the AFC with 18 passes defensed, according to the Washington Post. No one else has more than 11.
Lewis, who also is third on the team with 38 total tackles, is a major reason why the Steelers lead the NFL in passing defense. They're allowing 169.3 passing yards per game, according to NFL.com.
Lewis could face the same Pro Bowl hurdle as teammate Ike Taylor. He doesn't get enough interceptions. He has none this season and just one in his career.
Ike Taylor, CB
Speaking of Ike Taylor, perhaps this will be the season he's finally recognized as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
Taylor's never had more than three interceptions in a season, which has hurt him in the Pro Bowl balloting. It doesn't figure to get any easier this season because he has just one interception so far.
Taylor is tied for sixth in the AFC with 10 passes defensed. He'd likely have more if teams threw to his side of the field more often.
Since getting torched on Thursday Night Football in Week 6, Taylor has returned to his old ways in the last five games.
He only allowed A.J. Green one catch for eight yards in a Week 7 win over the Bengals. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Steelers' win over the Giants in Week 9.
Taylor has helped prevent five straight opposing quarterbacks from throwing for 200 yards in a game.
Taylor might have to hang on to a few balls, however, to get Pro Bowl votes.