Team MVP – Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger isn’t only leading the Steelers offense he is getting better by the week. So far on the season Roethlisberger has thrown for over 2,200 yards and 16 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. Ben currently holds a 101.1 quarterback rating. That would be the second best rating of his career. He is currently on pace to have the best year of his career surpassing the season he had in 2007, a season that ended in a Steelers championship
Offensive MVP – Tight End Heath Miller
This would be Ben Roethlisberger, but since he is the team MVP the offensive MVP will go to Heath Miller. Miller has become a force in the Todd Haley offense with 6 touchdowns at the half way point in the season. The most touchdown passes Miller has ever caught in a season is 7 in 2007 and he is bound to break that number far before the season ends. Miller is also on pace for the second most yards of any year of his career and the most receptions of his career in a single season.
Defensive MVP – Safety Ryan Clark
It seems that Ryan Clark just keeps getting better with age. If he was able to play at altitude both of the Steelers losses to the Broncos (including the playoffs last year) may have gone differently. Clark is a difference maker at the safety position and may even be more valuable that Troy Polamalu. Clark is second on the team in tackles with 52 and has a forced fumble and an interception. Also, for the second time in two years the Steelers rank first on defense against the pass and a lot of that is due to having Clark quarterbacking the secondary. Honorable Mention: Linebacker Larry Foote
Rookie of the Year – Fullback Will Johnson
Some people may be forgetting that Will Johnson is considered an undrafted free agent this year. Johnson went undrafted out of college in 2011 so this is technically his rookie year and he is helping the running game get better by the week. Will has only touched the ball 7 times on offense for 57 yards and a touchdown, but his main job is to open holes for the running game and he is doing just that. Johnson will continue to improve in his first full year as a fullback and may be in that position for a long time to come with the Steelers. Honorable Mention: Punter Drew Butler, Running back Chris Rainey, Tight End David Paulson
Best Off-Season Move – Hiring of Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley
Todd Haley came in with a lot of question marks; fans and analysts wondered if he would butt heads with starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but half way through the season everything is running smoothly. The first five weeks of the season were a work in progress, but over the past three weeks the Steelers offense has looked balanced and successfully. Haley has toned down the playbook and decreased the number of running plays from 50 to 25. That simplicity is working and is allowing Haley to call plays that play to his player’s strengths. This offense has already made huge strides through eight games and could continue to improve as everyone gets more comfortable with it and each other.
Surprise Player – Running back Jonathan Dwyer
Jonathan Dwyer was being touted coming out of college; Todd McShay of ESPN at one point had him as a top 30 prospect in the draft, but some disappointment at the NFL Scouting Combine dropped Dwyer’s value. He ended up going to the Steelers with the 188th pick in the draft and has seen the most playing time of his career this season. In back-to-back starts Dwyer ran for 122 and 107 yards and may have earned himself a shot at being the Steelers starting running back not only for the rest of the 2012 season, but also for the 2013 season.
Most Improved Player – Corner back Keenan Lewis
Keenan Lewis got a lot better last year and saw the field on defense more than he had in his first two years with the team. With the departure of William Gay in the off-season Lewis was given a chance to be the number two corner in the pre-season and he has earned that spot. Lewis has 31 tackles and a forced fumble this season that’s the most tackles for any corner on the team just ahead of Ike Taylor’s 27. Lewis has also 15 passes defended almost twice as many as Taylor. During last week’s 24-20 win over the Giants Lewis helped to shut down on of the top passing offenses in the league and had a pass deflection taken from him by a phantom pass interference penalty.
Comeback Player – Linebacker Larry Foote
Foote started every game for the Steelers from 2004 to 2008. He then left the Steelers to play for his hometown Detroit lions in 2009 and started 14 games. After the 2009 season Foote returned to the Steelers as a back-up to James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons. He only started 4 games over the last two seasons, but has taken over for the retired Farrior now in 2012. At 32 there was some question as to how good Foote would be this season, but he leads the team in tackles, has three sacks, and has forced two fumbles.
Best Play – Wide Receiver Mike Wallace’s 51 yard touchdown in Week 9
Mike Wallace caught a 4 yard slant from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the Giants with the Steelers down 20-10 and showed off his world class speed on the way to a 51 yard touchdown. Wallace is having another very good season even though he missed all of training camp and the pre-season in a contract holdout. Wallace is the leading receiver in two of the three top categories touchdowns (5) and yards (525) and is only 3 catches behind Antonio Brown’s team leading 52 with 49 receptions on the season.
Best Game – Week 9 win over the Giants
The Steelers overcame bad calls and the second ranked team in ESPN’s Power Rankings in week 9 for their first signature win of the2012 season. Pittsburgh’s defense held Eli Manning to the worst game of his 2012 campaign on the way to a 24-20 victory. The score of the game is not indicative of how the game went, however, the Steelers dominated from start to finish. If not for some very bad calls (Mike Ditka called it the worst officiating he has ever seen) the game would have been a blowout. The Steelers went from being considered potential contenders to being called the Texans biggest competition in the AFC; what a difference a week can make in the NFL.