There are so many flaws with the NFL Pro Bowl, I wouldn't know where to begin listing them. But it's still a nice honor for the players to be elected, and for fans of teams who have little to no hope of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy come February, the Pro Bowl represents one more opportunity to see their favorite players in action. If you're one of those rare fans who loves the annual exhibition game in Hawaii, you might be interested to know that voting is now open as of Tuesday.
Let's take a quick look at which Pittsburgh Steelers players might be in the running for the individual accolade.
- Mike Wallace: No. 17 looks like a lock to make his first Pro Bowl. We've been tracking Wallace's stats each week, so no need to rehash again here.
- Maurkice Pouncey: We'll see who emerges victorious between the trio of Pouncey, Nick Mangold of the Jets and Erick Mack of the Browns. Pouncey actually hasn't been playing as well as he did as a rookie, but he's the best lineman on a team that will likely be playoff bound. That should put him past Mack, as Cleveland doesn't appear quite ready to make a playoff push. Mangold has returned to the Jets lineup and been an integral part of their recent two-game turnaround, and he might hold the slight edge by virtue of playing in New York. Who knows? Both excellent centers will have their fair share of Pro Bowl appearances once it's all said and done.
- Heath Miller: The Steelers tight end has lots of catching up to do. His 23 receptions rank just 6th in the AFC, but he's a mere 6 catches behind Rob Gronkowski for tops in the conference. A big game against the Patriots in which he outplays both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez could put Miller more squarely in the conversation.
- Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben is third in the conference in yards per game (276.7), tied with Ryan Fitzpatrick for second in TD passes (12), third in yards per attempt, and tied with Fitzpatrick once again for third in QB rating (95.3). His 6 interceptions are a blemish, but so too are Brady's 8. With Peyton Manning out of the equation and Philip Rivers yet to get things humming, Big Ben might be in a three-way race with Fitzpatrick and Matt Schaub for the nod alongside Brady.
- LaMarr Woodley: After an awful start to the season, Woodley has come on like gangbusters this past three weeks. Woodley now has 7.0 sacks thanks to the 5.5 he's racked up during Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak. Woodley is the current AFC leader in the department heading into Week 8.
- Troy Polamalu: The stats may not be there, but he's Troy. He'll be headed to Honolulu like he is every year that he's healthy. And he'll be deserving if the numbers aren't what Steelers fans have come to expect. Polamalu has played very well this past six weeks.
- Ike Taylor: I'm not inclined to comb through cornerback stats right now, but I feel comfortable saying that Taylor is near or at the very top in categories like catch rate, yards per target, etc.
- Brett Keisel: The Disel has missed two games, but in the five that he's appeared, Keisel has played very well, recording two sacks, 17 tackles, and 1 pass defended that led to LaMarr Woodley's interception.
- Antonio Brown: His 29.4 yards per kickoff return rank third among AFC returners with at least 8 returns. Brown has actually been better than Jacoby Ford in my estimation, but Joe McKnight's 40 yard per return average sure is an impressive number. McKnight however has had a fraction of the success Brown has had returning punts. Brown is averaging a healthy 12.8 yards per return, and his 5 returns of 20+ yards leads the conference. One or two touchdown returns from the second-year jack-of-all-trades could help him become more of a familiar name outside of Steeler Nation.
Balloting will conclude on Monday, December 19 following the conclusion of Monday Night Football (Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers, ESPN, 8:30 pm (ET). The teams will be announced at 7:00 pm (ET) Tuesday, December 27 on a special NFL Total Access 2012 Pro Bowl Selection Show on NFL Network.
The 2012 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 29, 2012 and televised live on NBC at 7:00 pm (ET) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Fans may purchase tickets starting next month at NFL.com/probowl.
The AFC and NFC All-Star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group's vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent the American Football Conference and National Football Conference in the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 21-22.