The worldwide leaders in sports (ESPN) doesn't like to be outdone, so when the NFL Network started their insanely popular Top 100 list it didn't take ESPN.com to create their own NFL Top 100 list. Because people like rankings, and to see where players from their favorite team landed on the list, it is only logical to see where the Pittsburgh Steelers were placed on this list.
The Steelers saw four players represented on the list, and they were: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Maurkice Pouncey.
Before we get into their rankings, take a look at ESPN's criteria for ranking the players:
The parameters: Rate players based on how good they are -- period. All NFL players were eligible.
The process: Rate every player on a scale of 1-100. A score of 100 implies an all-time level of excellence; a 1 is for a player who doesn't belong in the NFL.
The panel: More than 70 voters. NFL analysts, reporters and statisticians -- both from ESPN and outside ESPN -- including former players and NFL front-office members
With that out of the way, it is time to analyze where each Steelers player was placed in these rankings, and who might have deserved to be higher on the list.
10. Antonio Brown | Steelers | Rating: 92.97
All Brown did in 2014 was catch 129 passes, the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. And in the age of the "freak" wide receiver, there's an unmistakable narrative around the league that the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Brown is actually the NFL's toughest cover. "He has elite quickness and speed to create separation on almost everyone he goes against," said an NFC evaluator. "There isn't a receiver quicker out of his breaks," said one voter. The miracle in all of this: Barely five years ago, there were 22 wide receivers drafted before Brown, who the Steelers nabbed late in Round 6.
Add it up: Brown has recorded at least five catches and 50 yards in an NFL-record 32 consecutive games, 13 more than the next-closest player on the list (Laveranues Coles).
There were 3 pass catcher ranked ahead of Brown (Rob Gronkowski at No. 5 and Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson who tied at No. 6), and such a number seems extremely high for the player who has lead the league in receptions the last two years, and added yards in 2014. Consider this fuel to Brown's fire to become even better in 2015.
24. Ben Roethlisberger | Steelers | Rating: 88.93
In his 11th NFL season, Big Ben threw for 4,952 yards -- 624 more than he had in any other season. That's an average of 310 yards per game ... in Pittsburgh, but it wasn't a passing free-for-all. Roethlisberger threw just nine INTs on 608 attempts, a 1.5-percent INT rate topped only by Rodgers. "I think they finally realized it's the Ben show," said one voter. Given the questions on defense, a 5,000-yard passing season in Pittsburgh doesn't seem crazy.
Add it up: Roethlisberger averaged 8.14 yards per attempt last season, third in the NFL and his highest mark since 2010.
Roethlisberger being rated at 24th isn't necessarily as atrocious as most might think, but there will be those who have a gripe when they see the quarterbacks listed ahead. The following signal callers were ranked ahead of Roethlisberger in the rankings: Aaron Rodgers (2nd), Tom Brady (3rd), Andrew Luck (12th) and Peyton Manning (19th).
25. Le'Veon Bell | Steelers | Rating: 88.85
Last year, Bell took shots at draft experts who he felt underrated him. The reality is he is simply a leaner, more explosive version of the bruising back we saw at Michigan State. "He's much better than the player we scouted," said an AFC evaluator. And not only is Bell a great runner, but he piled up 84 catches in 2014. Due to his suspension, he won't be on the field in 2015 until Sept. 27, as most fantasy owners know.
Add it up: Bell recorded 2,215 yards from scrimmage last season, second in the league (DeMarco Murray).
The Steelers Pro Bowl running back was the third highest ranking running back behind Adrian Peterson (11th) and Marshawn Lynch (14th). Bell's 2014 season has many fans wondering if such production from No. 26 was just a flash in the pan, or the new norm for Bell. As he has to sit out the first two games of 2015, his statistics could be lower than in 2014, but it doesn't mean he will be less effective.
65. Maurkice Pouncey | Steelers | Rating: 82.46
Soon after voting concluded for this year's #NFLRANK, Pouncey snapped his ankle in a preseason game, leaving another season in jeopardy. He missed basically all of 2013, and then played 2014 at his usual Pro Bowl level. "He has the movement skills of a tight end and the smarts of a quarterback," said one voter. "He's maybe the most talented interior lineman in the NFL." Talent isn't the issue. Healthy, Pouncey is an All-Pro. Pittsburgh can only hope he'll be available later this season.
Add it up: Pouncey is the only center with two first-team All-Pro selections since 2010.
Pouncey certainly deserves to be on this list, but it is difficult to see injuries somehow keeping him from being a truly elite level talent, regardless of position. As ESPN says, when Pouncey is healthy there is no one better at the center position, but health certainly seems to be a concern.
The ESPN Top 100 certainly seems to give more justification for their rankings than the NFL Network's Top 100, but in the grand scheme of things these lists don't even matter. Was there a Steeler left off the list which should be on it? Should players have been ranked higher? Let the debate begin.