Even though we're no longer handing out a fictitious game ball on behalf of Samsung, who graciously sponsored a six-post series earlier this season, let's still recognize a player on the Pittsburgh Steelers whose individual performance went a long ways towards helping the team win. In Week 12, Pittsburgh escaped Kansas City with a hard-fought 13-9 win over a desperate Chiefs team. The game was sloppy, and the Steelers really had no business letting the Chiefs hang around like that, but that's life in the National Football League. Even if you're a quality squad like the Steelers, if you bring your C+ or B- game, you're bound to be in a dogfight, no matter how overmatched on paper the opponent may be.
We'll get back to the particulars of what unfolded at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night, but first, an overview of potential candidates for our Week 12 Game Ball.
Jason Worilds: It's getting to be where it's time we extend an official warm 'welcome to the NFL!' to Worilds. Not that he's been non-existant. But it's clear now that he's going to be needed on a regular basis in terms of rotating in regularly at OLB for either Woodley or Harrison in the future. Sack No. 1 for Worilds in 2011. Not only that, he maintained his motor and effort all game, something we hadn't seen from him in his first few games this season. Worilds still has lots of room to develop, but he looked good Sunday night, registering six total tackles in addition to the one sack.
- Ben Roethlisberger: 21-of-31, 193 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Not exactly a vintage Big Ben performance, but Roethlisberger was very solid outside of his one interception in the second half. Had his receivers not dropped a number of passes, he's looking at a 240 yard, 2 TD game. Regardless, for a guy playing with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, Roethlisberger deserves credit for playing at a fairly high level.
Ryan Mundy: 10 total tackles and 1 INT. Not a bad day's work for the local product. Mundy has been playing quite a bit this year even when Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are both healthy in the lineup, typically in the safety spot that Polamalu has freed up when moving down into the box. On Sunday though, Mundy was forced to fill Polamalu's big shoes after No. 43 was sidelined with a head injury in the first quarter. His interception of Tyler Palko in the second quarter set up the game's only touchdown.
Lawrence Timmons: 7 tackles. Not a stat line that jumps out at you, but Timmons was great against the Chiefs. After a somewhat disappointing first three months of the season, Steeler Nation can only hope that Timmons is just now getting his legs underneath him and is primed to go on a terror in December and January. I thought he was the best player on the field for much of the night.
And the winner is? Two winners this week actually -- Ryan Mundy and Lawrence Timmons. Hard not to give Mundy some love for his performance, though it's only fair to note that a number of his ten tackles came on successful plays for the Chiefs offense. All in all though, Mundy played great, and Sunday night was really just a continuation of what's been his best professional season by far. Expect the young man to be re-signed this offseason.
As noted above, I thought Timmons was a difference maker even if he didn't stuff the stat sheet with splash plays. Whether he was defending the run or the pass, Timmons sniffed plays out quickly and effectively, and for the first time in some time, I found myself marveling at his athletic gifts. It's clear this Steelers defense can be very good, but I don't think it can be great unless Timmons is playing at a high level. Here's to hoping this was just a foretaste of the feast to come for him in the final home stretch of the 2011 season.