Most valuable Steeler?

MVP awards are pretty much pointless. We think it’s stupid to just give the award to the best player on the best team, which almost always happens. Hype makes up about 75% of the vote and there is no chance that a lineman will ever win the award because nobody pays attention to them. It is just not the best way to do things for a sports league.

But what about for a single team like the Steelers?

Now that we are basically 1/3 of the way through the year, we think things are far enough along to examine who the most valuable Steeler is to the team. By “most valuable,” we’re talking about who the team would miss the most if they went down with an injury and who has the biggest hand in the teams success. Here is our list of the five most valuable Steelers based on what we’ve seen so far in 2008.

Just missing: First off, we need to talk about who didn’t make the list. The offensive line is important, but they pretty much all suck. Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith have already missed time and I don’t think anybody noticed. Who else on that line is irreplaceable? Hartwig? Colon? Nothing to see there.

We love Willie Parker, but Mewelde just shredded a pretty stout Jacksonville run defense. Gary Russell is a lot better than most people think and Dump Truck is a serviceable replacement too. Running backs are basically a dime a dozen in the NFL and unless you have a very, very good one, there’s no sense in freaking out if your starter goes down.

The cornerbacks are all solid, but we have three quality ones that are perfectly healthy right now. If one went down like Deshea Townsend did earlier this year, an impact would be felt, but having two really good corners makes the loss less important.

Outside linebackers are a key part of the Steelers system, but a lot of their success comes from the system in the first place. Not saying that Silverback and Woodley aren’t great, but the Steelers never seem to have a drop off in OLB production no matter who they have to put out there. A few years ago we might have made the mistake of putting Joey Porter on the list, but somebody always comes along and produces.

Now, to the list:

5. James Farrior

Farrior is everything you want your defensive captain to be. He plays with an unrivaled passion and is one of the hardest working guys on the team. It is a huge testament to his work ethic to be 33 years old and still dominating at one of the most physically demanding positions in football. Still, the best part about Farrior isn’t his body, but his mind. He’s a defensive genius and has been calling the shots in a very complicated system since he came over from the Jets in 2002. You can pencil him in for right around 100 tackles and 5 sacks every year. We can’t say enough about Farrior.

4. Heath Miller

Maybe this is a surprise pick at number four, but Heath does a lot of good things very well. The Steelers employ a two TE set more than anybody else in the league and Heath’s versatility is why they are able to do that. When he was drafted, Miller was touted a great receiving threat. He’s lived up to that billing. But what is surprising is how good of a blocker he was become. He’s often forced to block speedy pass rushers and he’s answered the call. Miller is also one of the dominant red zone recievers in the NFL. Anytime Ben is in trouble you know he’s going to Heath or Hines. Miller also seems to have a knack for making clutch receptions that started during the Super Bowl run in 2005. We still don’t think Arians and Ben get Miller enough touches, but he’s not complaining and part of the reason why is that he’s turned into such an efficient blocker.

3. Hines Ward

He’s still the heart and soul of the team. Like I mentioned above, he always makes plays in the clutch. Just look at Sunday’s game at Jacksonville. Hines makes the two biggest plays of the game (thanks to Ben of course) – the 3rd down desperation catch and then the TD on the corner fade. You couldn’t think of a WR that fits the Pittsburgh mentality more than Hines Ward.

2. Troy Polamalu

If you have watched the Steelers at all the past four or five season, you know that the defense plays at a totally different level when he is out there. Troy is what takes a complicated defensive scheme and turns it into pure madness for opposing QB’s. We were worried after last year that Troy had lost his step for good. Then there was the injured training camp injury and we were preparing to go another season without him. He’s missed so much time that it would have almost seemed weird actually having him healthy. But we were stunned once week one came around and he was dominant. Troy has played some of his best football this season and it has elevated the play of everybody on the defense. Nobody else in the NFL is as versatile and active as Troy. It’s not a stretch to say that his craziness at safety has became as much a part of the Steelers defensive identity as the blitzing schemes have. Troy just dominates the game of football.

1. Big Ben

People still hate Ben for some reason. It only takes one interception for Leftwich to become the most popular athlete in town. It is a shame that a lot of Steeler fans aren’t recognizing the brilliance at QB that we’ve gotten to watch since Ben was drafted. The numbers speak for themselves: career QB rating of 92.7, 91 TD’s to 57 picks, oh and he did lead us to that Super Bowl win as well.

You can’t deny that he’s a great quarterback. The only real argument is whether or not he’s the best in the NFL in 2008 (We say that he is, but that’s a whole other issue).

There are just two facts that people need to understand about Big Ben to realize how good he is.

1. 2006 was a fluke. It was a minor miracle that he was even alive after the motorcycle accident and expecting him to play at a Pro Bowl level was ridiculous. He said he was fine, but what would you expect? Would we feel better if he made excuses after every performance and blamed it on the accident? Didn’t think so.

2. He’s a gunslinger…the exact type of QB that we’ve been begging for since Bradshaw. Ben is a playmaker. He’s going to take a lot of sacks and he’s going to throw a few dumb interceptions every now and then. It is just in the guy’s DNA to make plays at all costs. It is frustrating to watch him sit in the pocket and then run for his life without throwing the ball away. But nobody complains when he runs around avoiding blitzing lineman and then hits Hines Ward for a game-saving first down. NOBODY ELSE IN THE NFL MAKES PLAYS LIKE THAT! Ben is a special talent and thinks that he can do anything on the football field. He never gives up on plays and sacrifices his body to wait a few more seconds for an open man. If you can’t appreciate his ability, than maybe you should find another sport to watch. There are 31 other NFL teams that would kill to have him and the Steelers would be dead in the water without him.

Did we get it right? Who do you think is the most valuable Steeler? Give us your thoughts in the comments.