Tuesday, August 18, 2009

10 Players Most Important to the Steelers Success This Season

Yesterday, Tunch and Wolf mentioned that Pro Football Weekly came out with a list of the 10 most important players for each team. Inspired by this, we decided to come out with our own list of the 10 most important players for the Steelers to have success this season.

1. Ben Roethlisberger

Ben makes the offense go. There shouldn't really be much dispute about him being #1 in these rankings. He has 17 4th quarter/overtime comebacks in his career. He is the franchise quarterback and is the reason the Steelers are so successful.

2. James Harrison

Defensive Player of the Year. Set a single-season record for sacks last year. If you're wondering why Joey Porter leaving wasn't a big deal, it's right here. Harrison is the big playmaker on defense. Other teams have to scheme around him. He is some kind of monster.

3. Aaron Smith

Maybe you think this is a little high. Maybe not. When was the last time the Steelers gave up 100 yards rushing? That's right, in 2007 when Smith was hurt. Remember the gashings that Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew put on us in both games that year? Smith was out or injured for both. He is the anchor of the run defense. He is unblockable with one guy, you have to double-team him if you want to run the ball.

4. Justin Hartwig

Too high you say? Well, then you obviously don't remember how terrible our rushing offense was when Sean Mahan was our center. There were no cut-back lanes. Nose tackles routinely got pressure up the middle and disrupted the passing game. The center of the line is where it all happens, and Hartwig makes it go.

5. Troy Polamalu

We may have waited a bit too long to put Troy on this list. He has single-handedly redefined the safety position in the NFL. He is a complete player, from being a blitzer to a run-stopper and great in pass coverage. His interception total went back up last year and he returned to Pro Bowl form after having a few seasons being hampered by injuries. Troy's athleticism is second to none, and he is one of the most exciting players in football.

6. Hines Ward

Hines is still the go-to guy in the offense. As Tunch and Wolf say, whenever Hines gets the ball, there are 3 words that you will never hear an announcer say: "One yard short." Hines always knwos where the sticks are and where the goal line is. He is one of the smartest players on the team in understanding game situations.

7. LaMarr Woodley

Woodley is the reason you can't double-team James Harrison. Woodley may end up having a better career than Harrison and it really wouldn't be surprising to see him in the Pro Bowl this year (he should have made it last year). Woodley is an absolute monster, with the power to drive tackles off their feet and back into the quarterback and the speed to get around the edge. He's also got good coverage skills and plays very well in run defense.

8. Ike Taylor

Ike gets a bum rap for having bad hands. However, he's out there week in and week out matched up against the best receivers from the other team. He came into the league as a safety that the Steelers converted to a shut-down cornerback. Don't think he's a shut-down corner? How well has Chad Johnson done against the Steelers since Ike stepped into the starting corner role? TO? Other #1 receivers? That's what I thought.

9. Santonio Holmes

Santonio is a playmaker. We first saw flashes of it in his rookie year when he took a quick slant route for a 66-yard touchdown in overtime against the Bungles. Last year, he came up with big plays in all 3 games against the Ravens, as well as a bunch of catches on the game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLIII. Santonio's continued ability to make big plays, including making things happen after the catch, will be a key factor to the Steelers' success this season.

10. Max Starks

Max moves from being the highest paid back-up in the league to one of the most important positions on the field. Being left-handed, Starks is much more comfortable at left tackle than at right tackle where he was previously the backup to Willie Colon. Starks will be responsible for facing the best pass-rusher from the other team every down, which will include the likes of Jared Allen, Shawne Merriman, and Joey Porter. Starks is responsible for Ben's blindside and his ability to shut down the pass rush will be key to the Steelers passing game this season.

I'm sure you all out there in Steelers Nation have plenty of opinions on this subject. Let us know who your Top 10 Most Important Players are! We'd love to hear from you!

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