As the Steelers season wraps up with the disappointment of no playoff berth, it is hard to find MVP candidates, but I have four candidates below:
1. Ike Taylor- Taylor has been criticized by fans throughout his Steelers career, but it is clear that he may be the most valuable player on the team. Forget Ben Roethlisberger for a minute, because the team was and has been able to win without him. The cornerbacks have been injured all season and there is no one on that team close to Taylor’s ability at the position. Taylor is assigned the top receiver and covers his man like a blanket all game. In the first meeting against the Cincinnati Bengals, A.J. Green was covered by Taylor and while he had an eight yard touchdown, it was the only reception he had. All Green did yesterday was have his normal 100 plus yards receiving and catch the pass that set up the game winning field goal that knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs. Taylor is a confident corner and perhaps now Steelers fans are happy with what they have.
2. Shaun Suisham- This was a guy I questioned throughout preseason play, but fans called him money [unlike the 'young money' wide receivers who were anything but] for good reason. If Taylor had not been injured, there is a good chance that Suisham, yes the team’s kicker would have been the team’s MVP in my eyes. Simply put, he was consistent. Yes he missed two kicks yesterday but neither is really his fault and neither was his other kick. The first miss was because Head Coach Mike Tomlin made one of his many boneheaded decisions in kicking a field goal from a range Suisham was not comfortable with. Yesterday’s first miss was because of a terrible snap from Greg Warren and the second miss again was Tomlin trying to do too much and make a power move – having Suisham kick a long field goal into the more difficult end of Heinz Field. It was a force call and it effectively knocked them out of the playoff hunt. Suisham should be commended for the job he did this season, I doubt many people expected it.
3. Heath Miller- Speaking of consistency, this guy does it week in and week out. He is a fan favorite for a reason but on a larger scale his work is not commended because he doesn’t dazzle anyone, instead he does exactly what he is supposed to each week. He doesn’t drop the ball or make stupid mistakes that have plagued the ‘young money’ crew this season. While Mike Wallace had catching issues, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown had fumble issues and Jerricho Cotchery had injury issues, Miller continued to catch the ball and set up great blocks for his team. Miller could have won this award and the reason he didn’t is because of his offensive coordinator. In the Todd Haley system, Miller would disappear. This happened most notably in the Cowboys game when Miller had a great first half, never to be heard from again. Miller brings a lot to this season and he was the most consistent offensive player in a shaky year from those around him. That is why Miller makes the list.
Lawrence Timmons- Timmons had a solid year defensively. Shame on Dick LeBeau and whomever else held him back as it took until week five against the Philadelphia Eagles for him to see regular playing time, and he rewarded the Steelers with nine tackles and a fumble recovery. If there was a play, Timmons was there. He has had 10 or more tackles four times this season and in 15 games this season he has 100 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions, highlighted by the 53 yard return in week 12 against Cleveland that went for a touchdown. With James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley less effective and injured and their leader Troy Polamalu missing a lot of games the Steelers defense needed a leader and in his sixth season, Timmons is stepping up to try and fulfill that role.
My choice- I lean to Taylor because the secondary seems lost without him. Fans can boo him all they want, but perhaps now that he has been away and the team has not won since, they realize his worth. Each of these four players are valuable but it has been clear these past three weeks that Taylor has really been missed. I may go as far as saying that if Taylor was in, the Steelers may be a playoff team. Green would have been contained, the whole first half of the Cowboys gave where Josh Victorian was regularly picked on by Tony Romo and Miles Austin would have been avoided and the NFL still may not have heard of Danario Alexander. A healthy Taylor likely meant at least one of those losses was a win and the Steelers would have been in a good position at home against the Cleveland Browns to get the six seed. If the Steelers had run the table in these games Taylor had missed, they would have been the fifth or sixth seed. This is why Ike Taylor is my MVP in what has been a disappointing season for the Steelers and a very underwhelming year in Pittsburgh sports.