Pittsburgh Steelers: Players Whose Stock is Rising
Pittsburgh Steelers: Whose Stock is Rising
Here we are at the end of the first quarter of the NFL regular season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite a rocky and painful start, are fortunate enough to have a record of 2-2. The reason for the Steelers’ unexpected sluggish start out of the gate is due to a number of significant injuries to key players that has dated back to the offseason.
Having Pro Bowlers James Harrison and Troy Polamalu sidelined virtually for the entire part of the first four games has had an ill affect on Pittsburgh’s production on defense. On the other side of the ball, injuries to running back Rashard Mendenhall and rookie guard David DeCastro instantly slowed down the Steelers’ rushing attack, which had them ranked second-to-last in the league before Mendenhall’s return to the starting lineup this past weekend.
Even with the rough start, Pittsburgh does have a few players that have shined and given Steeler Nation reason to believe that a division championship and a playoff berth is still within reach.
Struggles on defense have only made the light shine brighter on the offensive side of the ball, especially on the passing game. This is where I see the most valuable players of the teams thus far this season. The offense has put the entire team on their shoulders, and without them, the Steelers’ record would be much worse than what it is right now.
Now is the time for me to reveal the players whose stock is on the rise for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers-Rashard Mendenhall
Even though he has been on the shelf since the end of the 2011 season, Mendenhall has proven all of the doubters wrong, including myself, about making an early comeback to the field after reconstructive knee surgery. The fifth-year running back out of the University of Illinois made his return to the gridiron this past Sunday versus the Philadelphia Eagles, and almost became the team’s leading rusher for the season in just one game. After toting the ball only 14 times, Mendenhall gained 81 yards and scored Pittsburgh’s only touchdown in their 16-14 victory. There’s no question that Mendy has officially reclaimed his rightful position as Pittsburgh’s feature running back.
Pittsburgh Steelers-Antonio Brown
Just like Mendenhall, wide receiver Antonio Brown is proving doubters wrong as well. Some said that last year’s success was a fluke, but so far, Brown has shown all of his naysayers otherwise. Last season was Brown’s breakout season and, as a result, earned a $42.5 million contract extension during the offseason by the Steelers. Brown made a number of big plays in the preseason and, so far, the third-year veteran leads the team in receptions (25), receiving yards (326), and is still Pittsburgh’s primary option in the punt return game. Brown has quickly established himself as one-half of one of the best receiving combos in the league. If you ask me, he’s earning every penny of that contract extension.
Pittsburgh Steelers-Ben Roethlisberger
Year after year, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger proves that he should be mentioned in the conversation when it comes to the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. This season appears to be no different. After four games, Roethlisberger is in the top ten in average passing yards per game (277.8), touchdown passes (8), and quarterback rating (100.6). In addition, Big Ben has a completion percentage of 65.6, and has only thrown one interception thus far this season. Having thrown only one pick is amazing, considering the fact that offensive coordinator Todd Haley has leaned heavily on the passing game by throwing the ball significantly more than running the ball.
Pittsburgh Steelers-Mike Wallace
The performance of wide receiver Mike Wallace in this early part of the season has made me, and many other football fans, put to rest the negative attention that was brought upon the Steelers’ organization this offseason. Wallace’s refusal to report to training camp and sign his $2.7 million tender rubbed people the wrong way and many thought that returning late to a team with a new offensive playbook would slow down the progress of Wallace’s game and Pittsburgh’s offensive chemistry. As of right now, Wallace is second on the team in receptions (19), receiving yards (251), and touchdowns (3). It looks like his holdout didn’t bother him at all.
Pittsburgh Steelers-Heath Miller
Tight end Heath Miller could be considered as one of the unsung heroes of this team. Overshadowed by Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Wallace, and Brown, Miller has come up big for Pittsburgh’s offense in the red zone. The eight-year veteran leads the Steelers with four touchdown receptions, and is tied for second in the league among all tight ends in touchdowns. Miller’s success can be attributed to the unfortunate season-ending injury to fullback/tight end David Johnson. Head coach Mike Tomlin had plans of using Johnson at the tight end position in certain plays this season. Instead, more of the responsibilities have fallen on Miller, and he has not hesitated in responding to the challenge.
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