As I read, I became more and more stunned at the lack of Pittsburgh Steelers who usually litter the list. Understandably, some of the bigger name guys haven't lived up to their potential this season (James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Mike Wallace) and don't warrant a trip to Hawaii.
Right now, Rosenthal has just one Steeler headed to the early February exhibition game, and that is guard Willie Colon...that's right, Willie Colon may be the only Steelers player in the Pro Bowl. Granted, Rosenthal does list Big Ben behind Andrew Luck solely due to the fact that Roethlisberger missed three games and can easily make up the ground.
But it's absolutely stunning to think that the Steelers' No. 1-ranked defense does not currently have any representatives worthy of Pro Bowl consideration in the eyes of an NFL "expert." And the question becomes, is this a growing trend?
I'm not one to say that a team truly has the best defense in the league if it gives up the fewest yards in a season, but the Steelers are certainly an upper echelon unit. I also happen to think there are at least three guys who should get a look or a mention.
Lawrence Timmons / ILB
Timmons has never been to the Pro Bowl in his five NFL seasons, but he may be playing his best campaign in 2012.
He is third on the team with 73 total tackles, but he does almost everything the Steelers ask of him, and he's become the defense's best all-around linebacker. To add to his tackle total, he's recorded a sack, three interceptions and scored a touchdown.
Timmons won't have the gaudy numbers an analyst would look for, but he's may be the most important player the Steelers have on defense. His biggest contribution may have been the leadership he's brought to this team late in the season to help turn the unit around.
Keenan Lewis / CB
Here's a name I never thought I'd be putting on a Pro Bowl ballot, but when you look at what he's done for the Steelers this season, the guy simply deserves it.
Like Timmons, Lewis won't have the gaudy interception numbers a lot of people look for, but he's been as solid as just about any other cornerback in the league this season.
But there are some numbers you can hang your hat on with Lewis. His 19 passes defended ties him for the NFL lead with Bears cornerback Tim Jennings. Lewis has also forced a fumble and recorded 57 total tackles, tying him for 12th amongst cornerbacks.
As I said, Lewis doesn't have the big name or the interception numbers that most people look for. Rosenthal selected Champ Bailey, Antonio Cromartie and Alterraun Verner as his cornerbacks, and I think Lewis might have an edge on the latter two.
Ryan Clark / S
I've vouched for Ryan Clark to be an All Pro all season long, and if you've watched him play at all this season, you'd probably do the same.
Clark is second on the team in tackles with 80. Than number ranks him sixth among NFL safeties and 4th in the AFC. Clark has also defended seven passes, picked off another two and forced two fumbles. Not to mention the fact he's covered for the absence of former All Pro safety Troy Polamalu for nine games this season.
Clark's biggest impact can be seen in Week 1, a time when he wasn't even on the field. Pittsburgh's defense couldn't stop Peyton Manning and the Broncos through the air. The same thing happened last season in the Wild Card round of the Playoffs against the same Broncos.
For years, Clark has been one of the league's most underrated safeties in the league. Outside the city of Pittsburgh, you'd be hard pressed to find people who rank him among the league's best.
Rosenthal chose Eric Weddle and Reshad Jones as his safety representatives from the AFC. Right now, Clark has more tackles than the Chargers' Weddle and the Dolphins' Jones and, oh yea, plays for a contending team. It's not to say these guys aren't deserving, but where's the love for a guy who obviously means so much to the NFL's top defense?
With Pro Bowl balloting ending December 17, Steelers players don't have a lot of time to make up ground. Right now, center Maurkice Pouncey is the only Steeler leading his position in terms of fan voting. The Steelers, however, have 12 players in the top five of their positions.
Fan voting only accounts for one-third of the actual numbers, so with under two weeks remaining, it remains to see how the team will fare in terms of Pro Bowl numbers. I'll post my guess for players at the bottom of the post.
QB - Ben Roethlisberger
- With a big week vs the Chargers, Big Ben's name will re-enter the talks.
TE - Heath Miller
- May be a long shot in the fan vote, but coaches and players know what Miller can do.
C - Maurkice Pouncey
- Not 100 percent positive he deserves to be going this year, but fans love him.
CB - Ike Taylor
- Taylor is becoming a more know commodity for the Steelers and he's been as shutdown as they come since the Tennessee game.
FS - Ryan Clark
- My gut tells me this guy's having too good a season to be left off the team.