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BTSC Week 8 Game Ball Goes To....

When you beat a team like the New England Patriots, it's not going to be because one or two guys play well. No, it takes a fine effort from top to bottom to win a game like in as convincing a fashion as the Pittsburgh Steelers did on Sunday. As convincing a fashion you might be asking? Don't be too hung up by the final score, 25-17. Of course, the score is the score, but it definitely doesn't paint the entire picture of how dominant the Steelers were on both sides of the ball. 

So who receives BTSC's fictitious game ball for this week? Mike Silverstein posed the question on Monday, and a number of you chimed in with compelling arguments for any number of players. Let's quickly go over who's deserving of consideration. I should also note that coaches are not eligible for this pretend award. Believe me, I will make sure Mike Tomlin and his team of assistants get their fair share of due when the Steelers are clearly ready to play like they were on Sunday. But for the sake of this exercise, we'll limit the awarding of hardware to the players themselves. 

  • Ben Roethlisberger: 36-of-52, 329 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 95.6 QB Rating
  • Heath Miller: 7 receptions, 85 yards
  • Antonio Brown: 9 receptions, 67 yards, 1 TD, 27.0 average kickoff return (3 returns)
  • LaMarr Woodley: 2.0 sacks
  • Ike Taylor: 6 tackles, limited Wes Welker to 39 yards on 6 receptions
Impossible to really argue with any of these picks, though I suppose Miller might be a bit of a stretch considering the majority of his production came on the first series of the game. Then again, scoring first and establishing the tone early and often against the Patriots was huge. But the dropped pass, a true rarity for Miller, disqualifies him this week in my mind.

Woodley was well on his way to running away with the award until a hamstring injury forced him to miss much of the second half. Awesome, awesome stuff by Woodley this past four weeks. He now has 9 sacks on the season, the top mark in the AFC. 7.5 of those have come during the Steelers' four game winning streak. Ever since getting snuffed out by the Houston Texans offensive line and tight ends, Woodley has played like a man possessed. If he needs a week or two to get the hamstring healed and ready for the stretch run, so be it. Mission accomplished so far through eight games for Pittsburgh. Provided they win one of the next two, they're right where they need to be heading into the bye week. 

Ben Roethlisberger, meanwhile, was spectacular. But I have a hunch we might see him get a much more prestigious (and, you know, actually real) award this week -- the AFC Offensive Player of the Month in October. We'll find out soon enough I suppose. Roethlisberger is certainly deserving of the nod here, but he got his recognition from me last week for his 369 yard, 3 TD performance against the Arizona Cardinals. 

Kudos to Antonio Brown for his first career regular season touchdown. His nine receptions set a career high, and if it weren't so late, I'd love to confirm that more than half of his catches went for first down yardage. I may shake my head on occasion when he does his best Santonio Holmes impersonation after seemingly every catch, but man do I love watching this dude play. So talented, so smooth, so confident. 


Having said all that, I have to make sure Ike Taylor gets his moment in the spotlight. We sure as hell all know he's snubbed far too often for individual awards because of his lack of interceptions. Let's not make that same mistake here. Taylor turned in some of his finest work to date against Wes Welker, limiting the shifty Pats' WR to just 39 yards on 6 relatively harmless catches. We've seen Taylor man up against bigger No. 1 cornerbacks like Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, et al, but we haven't seen him deployed like he was on Sunday very frequently in his remarkable nine-year career.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, has done as good a job disrupting the timing between Brady and Welker as Taylor did in Week 8. Taylor frustrated and limited the productivity of the league's most consistent WR this past five seasons, and in doing so, prohibited the New England offense from establishing the potent rhythm and confidence that has made New England so dang potent offensively despite their relatively pedestrian stable of playmakers on the perimeter in recent years. For that he gets my Week 8 game ball. 

Swaggin' U! Go Steelers!