2012 wasn’t the type of NFL season most Pittsburgh Steelers fans expected. Injuries plagued both sides of the football, and the strengths of this team, its defense, no longer struck fear in opposing offenses. And while the unit as a whole underperformed there were certainly individual performances that deserve recognition. But which Steelers defender is the 2012 defensive player of the year?
Going over the season in its entirety there are really only three players that I would consider worthy of this honor.
The first is inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons was able to stay on the field for the entire season and it really showed. He finished the year with 106 tackles, six sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. His athleticism and speed was evident week after week and I really think we have only seen the surface of what Timmons is really capable of.
The next finalist is safety Ryan Clark. Clark battled missed time with injuries for parts of the year, but still managed to finish the season with over 100 tackles and two interceptions. But bigger than just the numbers was his physical presence on the field and the leadership he gave to the defense.
My last finalist is inside linebacker Larry Foote. Foote has a resurrection of his career in 2012 with 113 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles. It seemed that he was involved in every play during the season, making big stops behind the line of scrimmage, stops on third down to force punts and playing well in coverage on tight ends and backs.
In the final analysis, which of these three deserved it most? Which player had the greatest impact on the success of this season? I have to go with Clark. Even missing parts of several games this season Clark left his his mark on this defense in a major way. With the team missing fellow safety Troy Polamalu for a good portion of the season Clark took a major leadership role on the defensive side of the football while also filling in the missing production. He became an intimidating force in the middle of the defense and at 33 years old played like a guy five years younger. After this season, I look forward to what Clark can do in 2013.
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