Pittsburgh Steelers' Most Likely Postseason Award Candidates for 2014 Season
The only current Pittsburgh Steeler who can lay claim to an NFL postseason award is Troy Polamalu. He earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors at the conclusion of the 2010 season. At age 33, it’s unlikely that Polamalu will become a two-time winner.
Still, some members of the current squad have a shot at some hardware of their own. Whether it be the ultra-athletic Ryan Shazier taking home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors or Ben Roethlisberger continuing his statistical excellence in pursuit of an elusive MVP award, several Pittsburgh Steelers bear watching.
So who among the current Steelers has the best shot at taking home one of these prestigious awards? Read on to find out.
AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year: Heath Miller
Heath Miller provides an interesting case for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award in 2014. Though he’s more than a year removed from a catastrophic ACL tear, that doesn’t immediately bar him from contention.
Last year’s winner, Philip Rivers, hadn’t missed a start since 2006. He still took home the award because his ’13 season served as a rebound from lackluster campaigns in ’11 and ’12.
That’s where Miller comes in. His ’13 season wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was underwhelming in comparison to his Pro Bowl year in 2012. Miller posted more than 200 fewer receiving yards and seven less scores in ’13.
That being said, Miller, like almost everyone, isn’t the genetic freak that Adrian Peterson is. It takes most people some time to fully recuperate from an ACL tear, and at the start of next season, Miller will be almost two years removed from his injury.
With Jerricho Cotchery gone, Roethlisberger should be looking for Miller in the red zone significantly more often than he did a year ago. Increased touchdown production could go a long way toward Miller’s candidacy for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dri Archer
Of all the players to appear on this list, Dri Archer is the least likely to take home any sort of award at next season’s conclusion. After all, Le’Veon Bell didn’t win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013, and he saw far more touches than Archer could hope to get in his inaugural season.
Still, Archer is Pittsburgh’s best hope to land the award in ’14. The speedster out of Kent State can impact a game in any number of ways and will have to do so to have a legitimate shot at earning any hardware.
Offensively, he won’t likely get more than three to five touches in many games. If he manages to turn a few of those attempts into big gains, though, you can bet award voters will take notice. Archer doesn’t need to accrue 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but he’ll need at least 500-600 for anyone to take his candidacy seriously.
What could put him over the top is his ability as a return specialist. He managed four return scores in just 18 attempts over his last two collegiate seasons. If he can have that kind of impact in his rookie season, it may just be enough to get him on the radar.
AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ryan Shazier
How fast Ryan Shazier will pick up Dick LeBeau’s complicated defensive scheme remains to be seen. How fast Shazier is, however, is an entirely different story.
It’s been well-publicized in recent weeks that he is insanely fast for a linebacker. In fact, he’s fast regardless of his position. His unofficial 4.36 40-yard dash time, per NFL.com, would have been good for fourth at the NFL combine. The only players ahead of him would have been Archer and two wide receivers.
That speed helped Shazier to excel during his time at Ohio State. His ability to close on the ball-carrier saw him compile more than 100 solo tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks during his final collegiate season.
That kind of production shouldn’t be expected of any rookie, regardless of pedigree. Should Shazier manage even half of those totals, though, he'll have a shot at being named Defensive Rookie of the Year. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not he’s as quick of a study as he is on his feet.
AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Lawrence Timmons
A Pittsburgh Steeler has taken home the prestigious NFL Defensive Player of the Year award on an unprecedented seven different occasions. You better believe that Dick LeBeau and Co. would love to make it eight in 2014.
However, accomplishing that feat will be tough. Barring a trip to the fountain of youth for Troy Polamalu, there’s only one man who has a shot at the award: Lawrence Timmons.
He has been criminally underrated throughout his career, mostly due to being flanked by the likes of James Farrior, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Consider that Timmons has more career sacks and interceptions than fellow 2007 draftee Patrick Willis and has yet to earn even a Pro Bowl invitation.
This year, though, is different. With both Larry Foote and Woodley out of town, Timmons will take over as the unquestioned leader of the linebacker corps. Combine that with two premier linebackers in Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman being out for most, if not all, of next season, and Timmons has a legitimate shot at the recognition he deserves.
AP NFL MVP: Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger has done some of the best work of his career over the past two seasons. Between 2012 and 2013 he has thrown 54 touchdowns, easily the best mark in any two-year stretch of his career.
Unfortunately for him, his team hasn’t followed suit. Consecutive 8-8 finishes in those two seasons virtually barred him from the MVP conversation right off the bat. Some will recall that Roethlisberger was in contention for the award in 2012, but that ended when the Steelers closed the season with just two wins in their last seven tries.
In order for him to garner serious MVP consideration in ’14, he’ll need to lead a winning team. Coupled with that, he will have to post even more impressive statistics.
After all, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will all be looking to add another MVP trophy to their mantles this coming season. If Roethlisberger can keep pace with that trio, though, he’ll be tough to ignore.