It was surprising to see only three Steelers players selected to the Pro Bowl. After all, this is a veteran, star-laden Pittsburgh team that sports an 11-4 record and one of the top five run defenses in NFL history.
The problem was not that the Steelers did not have more worthy candidates. OLB James Harrison, SS Troy Polamalu and C Maurkice Pouncey all were worthy of their invites. ILB James Farrior, NT Casey Hampton, CB Ike Taylor, ILB Lawrence Timmons and WR Mike Wallace also had Pro-Bowl caliber seasons. But Taylor was the only one who was actually worthy of a spot over a selected player on this year’s AFC Pro Bowl roster.
The primary problem with the Pro Bowl is that only 42 players are selected from each conference, leaving off many deserving candidates. Why not have a 53-man roster for the Pro Bowl? Moreover, some positions are under-represented.
Exactly half the teams in the NFL now employ a base 3-4 defense, but yet only two inside linebackers are selected for each conference, compared to three quarterbacks. Thus, 32 quarterbacks and 48 inside linebackers start each week in the NFL; but yet there are six spots for quarterbacks in the Pro Bowl, compared to just four for inside linebackers.
This discrepancy is why Farrior has only been to two Pro Bowls during his superb Steelers career, and neither Farrior or Timmons were deserving of such a bid this year over Ray Lewis, who is still the best Mike backer in the game, or athletic Patriots stalwart Jerod Mayo.
Nor was Wallace more worthy than any of the four receivers selected to represent the AFC. Wallace enjoyed a splendid second season, tallying 57 catches for 1,152 yards, 9 TDs and a league-leading 20.2 yards per reception average. But here are the stats for the four WRs selected from the AFC for this year’s Pro Bowl:
Andre Johnson, 86 receptions for 1,217 yards and 8 TDs.
Reggie Wayne, 102 receptions for 1,287 yards and 5 TDs.
Brandon Lloyd, 72 receptions for 1,375 yards and 10 TDs.
Dwyane Bowe, 67 receptions for 1,094 yards and 15 TDs.
Wallace simply did not make enough receptions to warrant a Pro-Bowl bid this year in a loaded AFC for his position. He did emerge as the team’s No. 1 WR, but was double-teamed too often and always faced opponents’ best corners, primarily because Pittsburgh had no solid No. 2 receiver this year after moronically giving away Santonio Holmes to the Jets over the offseason as a PR move.
Incidentally, Holmes’ 79 receptions for 1,248 yards in 2009 was just as Pro-Bowl worthy as Wallace’s excellent 2010 campaign. Could you imagine if opposing teams had to cover both studs instead of being able to cover Hines Ward with a linebacker or safety, and watching promising rookie Emmanuel Sanders continuously fall down after making his cuts? Sanders will be very good down the road, but needs new cleats and is a work in progress.
The only Steeler deserving of a Pro-Bowl bid this year who did not receive one was Taylor, as Adam already noted.
Taylor easily had a better year than Darelle Revis, who was hindered by a hamstring pull all year, seemingly beaten more often than in all his other years combined, and often did not even cover the opposing team’s best receiver, with those responsibilities going to former Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie.
In contrast, Taylor had Bryant McFadden on the other side and thus was given Deion Sanders-type respect by opposing QBs. Nevertheless, Taylor had a superb season and should have been tabbed over Revis, who made this game on past accomplishments and reputation.
Pouncey, though, is probably not yet one of the top two centers in the AFC, so the Steelers numbers were just. It is just irritating that Taylor has now had four Pro-Bowl caliber seasons in his NFL career, but has never once been selected for the game or even played in it as an alternate.