Pittsburgh Steelers Midseason Report: 6-2 and Looking For More
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently 6-2, and are tied for first place in the AFC North at the midpoint of the 2010 NFL season.
After starting the season 3-1 without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have gone a consistent 3-1 with him.
The defense has been good all season, the offense has been improving with Ben back and in my opinion the Steelers are the best team in the NFL.
In this article I will talk about some storylines for the Steelers, and who I think are the team’s MVPs for the first half of the season.
Maurkice Pouncey: Rookie of the Year?
Maurkice Pouncey has been everything the Steelers wanted and more when they selected him with the 18th overall pick in the NFL draft.
With a line decimated by injuries, Pouncey has been easily the best Steelers offensive lineman this season, and until leaving the game against the Bengals had started every snap as the starting center.
Thankfully, Pouncey’s right leg injury was not too bad and he was able to return to the game and continue to open up holes and protect Ben Roethlisberger.
Center is one of the hardest positions to play in the NFL, and I believe Maurkice Pouncey deserves to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year for what he has done for the Steelers this season.
Lawrence Timmons Tears Up League
Last season, was Lawrence Timmons first as a starter with the Steelers, and he was hampered by injury the entire season.
This year Timmons is healthy and has been living up to his first-round pick status by hitting anything that moves every Sunday.
Timmons is currently fourth in the NFL with 78 total tackles and has thrown in three sacks, six pass defenses, and two interceptions to his stats for the season.
In short, Timmons has been everywhere this year and been maybe the most consistent defender for the Steelers in what I believe should be his first Pro Bowl season.
Jeff Reed Not Earning a New Contract
In the offseason, Jeff Reed was reportedly not happy with the fact that the Steelers had not given him a new contract to that point.
As it stands, Jeff Reed will be a free agent after this season and he really hasn’t given the Steelers any incentive to give him a big contract.
Besides all the off-the-field problems he has had recently, Reed has not been performing on the field and entered the game against the Bengals with the worst field goal percentage in the league.
Reed is currently 14-for-20 in field goals this season with all his misses being more than 40 yards, and he missed yet another field goal in the fourth quarter against the Bengals that would have essentially put the game away.
Ben Roethlisberger Keeps Steelers Rolling
Ben Roethlisberger took over a 3-1 Steelers team when he came back from suspension, and was expected to make the team immensely better.
Ben and the offense have not been rolling per say so far, however the Steelers have not stopped winning going 3-1 with Ben and bringing their record to 6-2.
Though the offense has been much improved from what it was without Ben, they still need to get better scoring touchdowns and not field goals.
Ben has thrown three interceptions in his four games back, and that pick against the Bengals in the fourth quarter can’t happen.
All in all, I believe Ben will be just fine and his chemistry with the receivers will continue to get better every week.
Rookies Stepping Up
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the oldest and most veteran teams in the NFL, yet there are a bunch of young guys making contributions in their first years in the league.
I have already talked about how well first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey has done for the Steelers so far this season, and I still believe he should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Second-round pick Jason Worilds started off slow in the preseason, however, has been great on special teams and had the hit on Chad Henne that essentially won the game for the Steelers in Week 7.
Emmanuel Sanders was the Steelers' third selection and other than fumbling his first return against the Dolphins, has been electrifying in the return game and has shown good route running and hands as a receiver.
Fifth-round pick Stevenson Sylvester has been great on special teams, and sixth-round pick Antonio Brown showed his potential with that 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Titans in Week 2.
I was upset to hear that the Steelers lost Thaddeus Gibson to the 49ers, and Jonathon Dwyer could see his first playing time this weekend against the Patriots due to injury.
Injuries Decimate Whole Team
The Steelers have not been able to avoid the injury bug this season, although it has not caused them to lose any games yet.
The offensive line has been hit the hardest as every starter has missed some time due to injury, and now Max Starks might be lost for the season due to a neck injury.
Jonathan Scott would replace Starks and with Chris Kemoeatu hobbled with sprained knee, Doug Legursky might start at left guard.
Heath Miller has fluid in his knee and both Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman sustained concussions against the Bengals, which could force rookie Jonathan Dwyer on the field.
On defense, the line has been most affected with Aaron Smith possibly missing the season with torn triceps and Brett Keisel has been hampered by a hamstring injury.
These aren’t even all the injuries on the Steelers, and hopefully they can continue to win games with all these guys out.
UPDATE: Max Starks has been placed on injured reserve and rookie Chris Scott has been activated to the roster.
Special Teams MVP
Winner: Emmanuel Sanders
Runner-up: Stevenson Sylvester
Emmanuel Sanders started his season off slow after being replaced by fellow rookie Antonio Brown, however, has really come on as a returner for the Steelers.
Sanders earned special teams player of the week honors in Week 7 against the Dolphins, and has averaged about 26 yards per return this season.
Emmanuel has also been good in kick coverage, and actually forced the fumble on the first kickoff of the game against the Bengals.
Stevenson Sylvester may not have the statistics, but he sets a tone for the special teams and has a bright future with the Steelers.
Winner: Troy Polamalu
Runner-up: Lawrence Timmons
Although Troy has not had an interception since Week 2 against the Titans and seemed to disappear for a while, he is still my defensive MVP for the Steelers.
Troy’s impact on the defense is more than just tackles or interceptions, it is a confidence he gives every player out there just because they know he’s there.
No safety in the league does more for a defense than Troy, who can start about 20 yards in the secondary and end up sacking the quarterback on the same play.
Lawrence Timmons is having a great year on the field for the Steelers, and on any other team would probably earn this title hands down for the type of season he is having.
This was a hard decision, and I just felt that Troy won this based on what he has done for the team mentally and not just physically.
Winner: Rashard Mendenahll
Runner-up: Maurkice Pouncey
Rashard Mendenhall is currently seventh in the league in rushing with 702 yards, and tied for third with seven touchdowns.
Those seven touchdowns match his 2009 total for the whole season, and Mendenhall was one yard short of a 100-yard game against the Bengals.
Without Ben Roethlisberger, teams stacked up against the run and Mendenhall just put the offense on his back and carried them through the first four weeks.
Maurkice Pouncey has been one of the main guys opening up holes for Mendenhall to run through, so you can say Pouncey deserves the MVP just as much as Rashard.
In my opinion however, Rashard has earned the MVP for carrying the Steelers for most of the season and he should be in the Pro Bowl this year.
A Look Ahead
The Steelers have to stay focused in the second half of the season after coming off last year when they had that terrible five -ame losing streak.
I had the Steelers going 16-0 in the offseason, so it is probably not a surprise that I believe they will go 8-0 in the second half of the season.
The Steelers will face four teams that currently hold a winning record ,and will have to be able to cope with all of the injuries they have sustained to this point in the season.
It will be interesting to see if the rookies that I have mentioned can continue to contribute at the level they have been, and also who will step up for the Steelers in the midst of all these injuries.
All I know is what I have said since the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers will end up as Super Bowl champions, again.