5 Underrated Pittsburgh Steelers Who Have Played Well in 2011
This season has been led by the stars, but there have been a handful of players who have stepped up to the plate as well.
Whether it's been due to injury or suspensions, the Steelers have players who are ready to fill in. Head coach Mike Tomlin always talks about depth on this team, and for good reason. The offensive line has been a revolving door of players the last few seasons and that hasn't changed this year.
That is what makes the Steelers such a good team, and a great organization for which to play. This is a true team from top to bottom. Every player has a role, and those who can't accept that go on to another team. Willie Parker and Antwaan Randel El found out the hard way that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Here are five underrated players who have stepped up big this season.
Jerricho Cotchery, Wide Receiver
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On an offense full of young standouts at the wide receiver position, it would be easy for an aging veteran to get discouraged.
Hines Ward has looked frustrated all season and he doesn't smile every play like we are used to. It's understandable that he is less enthusiastic as he sees his career winding down. He's fumbled and dropped the ball, very unusual for the Hines Ward we know and love.
29-year-old Jerricho Cotchery has been acting completely opposite of Hines Ward. While he only has eight receptions, he is averaging 14.5 yards a catch and has two big touchdowns. He would have three if not for a questionable penalty against Heath Miller that negated a touchdown reception against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cotchery is always bouncing around and getting the offense pumped up, even on the sidelines. He's a true team player and still has some quickness and good hands. I look for him to come up big in key situations. Despite the fact he doesn't have a lot of passes thrown his way, he's ready when Ben Roethlisberger needs him.
William Gay, Defensive Back
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Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back William Gay has been bashed by Steelers fans since he arrived in Pittsburgh.
Even this season, I still hear fans complaining about him. Slowly but surely, big play Willie Gay is gaining support. His two interceptions lead the Steelers defense, and both were huge momentum changing plays. One came against the Bengals in the first game when they were driving. The other closed out the Cleveland Browns.
Confidence does wonders for anybody, especially in athletics. He has been beaten badly at times, especially as a young player. A couple of years ago it would get worse as he looked scared and overmatched. Now he might give up a catch and on the next play he shuts his man down. Gay is also sixth on the team in tackles with 48, including two for a loss.
The next person I hear bashing him should turn in their Steelers gear. The guy can flat out play, and is only going to get better. Ike Taylor gets beaten like a drum and then praised when he finally makes a play. This is a case of being overly influenced by the media. Watch the games folks. William Gay passes the eye test.
He will be a key member of this defense going into the playoffs and beyond.
Ryan Clark, Safety
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I have been guilty of hating on Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, so much so that he blocked me on Twitter!
Early in the season he was leaving his area and making the secondary look bad. He was the anti Troy Polamalu in that regard. On top of that, he isn't getting any younger. The ten-year veteran is 32 years old and has been a one-trick pony throughout his career. He is a tremendous hitter and delivers some of the hardest hits in the league.
As the season has worn on, Clark has played so much better that it looks like he and Troy Polamalu switched jerseys. He's helping the defensive backs and is making great clean tackles. Despite the NFL outlawing hard hits, he has managed to avoid penalties for a few weeks now.
Clark is leading the Steelers in tackles with 86, and has an interception. If he continues to step up his game, it will allow Troy Polamalu to play his game. He hasn't been able to roam as much, but this has more to do with him being banged up than anything else.
Isaac Redman, Running Back
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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Isaac Redman is a lot better than advertised. Despite playing second fiddle to starter Rashard Mendenhall, he runs hard each and every play.
He wasn't a player most fans knew of up until last year, coming out of Bowie State. With the power he runs with, you would think he played for a team like Alabama or Wisconsin! This guy runs harder than most starters in this league, and has surprising quickness, too.
Despite teams expecting him to run up the gut, he has managed to average 4.4 yards a carry on 81 attempts. While he has only scored once, he has gained 353 important yards for the team.
It takes a true team-first guy to prepare like he has even though I'm sure he wants more carries. He takes care of the ball and does his job, which shows with zero fumbles. If he continues to run this hard and well, expect him to start in the NFL soon.
Lawrence Timmons, Linebacker
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The Pittsburgh Steelers expected big things from linebacker Lawrence Timmons coming out of Florida State. Five years and hundreds of "Tiny Timmons" moments later, he is finally stepping up his game. It's been much needed, too, with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley injured off and on throughout the season.
With James Harrison set to serve a one-game suspension for Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers, Timmons will need to continue playing well. Timmons is third on the team with 70 tackles, and has an interception as well. He is athletic as all get out and has definitely shown enough to warrant some respect.
He doesn't get the credit he deserves with two superstars playing around him in Woodley and Harrison, but that will come. The Steelers have always been loaded with talent at the linebacker position. This season is no exception. When Timmons takes the field I feel like he can hold his own, he has stepped up much like defensive back William Gay.