On Thursday, four Pittsburgh Steelers had their names attached to the 2013 Pro Bowl as second alternates -- Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Clark, and Shaun Suisham.
Timmons and Clark are the only players even remotely recognized for their part in the league's top ranked defense. While most fingers point at a lack of forced turnovers and 3rd down stops, no two players played bigger roles in the success of a defense caught in a perpetual flux. Quickly forgotten are plays like Timmons' interception return for a touchdown against the Browns, when seven offensive turnovers muddle the view.
Roethlisberger had a stellar 2012 season, despite several game-losing interceptions and a near fatal rib injury that forced him to miss weeks 11-13. Had he been able to play in every game this season, he was on pace for one of his best seasons as a professional quarterback. With one more game to play, his season statistical line reads 269 of 426 for 3,131 yds, with 23 TDs vs 8 INTs. Based on those averages had he been able to play all 16 games, his final line would have looked more like this: 358 of 568 (both career highs) for 4,174 yards (second only to 4,328 in 2009), with 30 TDs (second only to 32 in 2007) vs. 10 INTs (his third lowest total compared to 9 in 2005 and 5 in 2010. He only played 12 games in each of those seasons). With his performance possibly affected by his recovery, his numbers may have actually set career marks in each category.
Suisham was enjoying his most accurate and consistent season of his career. He missed only three field goals all year, and even those were understandable misses. Twice he was asked to make game-deciding kicks beyond his alleged maximum distance, and one 24 yarder failed due to a poor snap and hold.
Roethlisberger seems the most likely to get in, as two of the men in front of him are members of serious championship contenders. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, even if not involved in this year's Super Bowl, tend to find ways out of these all-star games, increasing the chances for Roethlisberger to play in one of their steads.
While cases can be made for each player's right to participate in the NFL's Pro Bowl on January 27th, 2013, in reality these men are second alternates because there were better performances by their peers at their respective positions. The only way these four players will find their way into the Pro Bowl now is an injury to an elected starter, or a starter is forced to miss due to Super Bowl obligations with their team.