A few Steelers are likely to receive some league-wide recognition tonight. Perhaps less than usual, though.
With the Pro Bowl starters being announced at 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network, it doesn't seem likely the Steelers will have many players named to the AFC all-star squad.
Not that it matters. The main goal is to play the following week anyway.
Let's go through some of the candidates who may hear their names called.
SS Troy Polamalu: Simply put, no safety has been more vital to his team's success, and Polamalu - the defending Defensive Player of the Year, was the key component to the AFC's best scoring defense. With star OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley missing a combined 10 games, Polamalu had to help pick up the playmaking slack. A particularly dominant Week 17 performance sealed his place.
QB Ben Roethlisberger: Third in the AFC with a 91.5 rating, third with 3,856 yards, fifth with 21 touchdown passes, and he did all of this with his offensive line changing once every six quarters. The only other QB in the AFC at or near the top of these stats is Patriots QB Tom Brady, who's a shoo-in. Other candidates will include the injured Matt Schaub, San Diego's Phillip Rivers (19 INTs, 7-8 record heading into Week 17), and maybe even Baltimore's Joe Flacco. Not a strong crop of AFC passers this year.
WR Mike Wallace: Eighth in the AFC in catches (71), third in yards (1,182) and sixth in average per catch (16.6). No receiver with more than 70 catches has a higher average. His eight touchdown receptions are third in the conference, and the second-highest total among wide receivers. He's second among AFC wide receivers with 435 yards after catch.
DE Brett Keisel: Defensive ends in 3-4 defenses are not the statistical monsters of their 4-3 counterparts. No one in the game epitomizes that disparity better than Brett Keisel. Keisel missed Weeks 3 and 4 against Indianapolis and Houston, respectively. They rushed for a combined 277 yards, or 138.5 a game. With Keisel in the lineup, the Steelers are allowing 117 a game, and 3.7 a carry (4.0 without him). With only three sacks, and a slew of sack-happy AFC defensive ends, it may be tough for Keisel to carry his "pure player" campaign.
OLB LaMarr Woodley: The only thing holding Woodley back is his lack of playing time. Unfortunately, with an explosion of AFC OLB talent this year, it will likely be enough to keep him off the roster. Woodley was dominant before he was injured, though, leading the AFC in sacks and having just completely destroyed New England.
WR Antonio Brown: He kick-started a great season around the sixth week, and topped the 1,000 yard mark in Week 16. He's top 10 in both catches (63) and yards (1,018), but his two touchdowns drop him from his contemporaries quite a ways. Brown's ace-in-the-hole is his return game, where he's second in the AFC with a 27.7 yards-per-return on kickoffs, and fourth with a 10.8 yard punt return average. It's just hard to find him a spot as either a receiver or a returner, but when both are combined, no one has done more. Look for Brown to be added as an injury replacement as well.
OLB James Harrison: He plays like a Pro Bowler, but judging by the amount of hate spewed at him from outside Pittsburgh, he likely didn't garner many fan votes. A travesty, but he also missed four games. This will be the first Pro Bowl he's missed since 2007. He was All-Pro last season.
C Maurkice Pouncey: He just didn't back-up his Pro Bowl performance from 2010. Injuries and illness hampered him as well, along with an ever-changing offensive line. Not a bad year for Pouncey, but one on which he can improve.
FS Ryan Clark: Despite a career year in tackles (his 96 currently lead the league's best defense), Clark probably misses out due to a lack of interceptions (one) and a glut of talent among AFC safeties.
NT Casey Hampton: Big Snack just didn't see the field as often as he has in the past. An early-season injury didn't help his play total either, and the amount of time Pittsburgh spent in their nickel package (Hampton is off the field in that) limited the amount of time he could produce. Play for play, he's still a dominant player. Wouldn't be surprised to see him as an injury replacement either.