The 10 most important players on the Pittsburgh Steelers
1. WR Antonio Brown (39 points)
2. RB Le'Veon Bell (37)
3. OLB James Harrison (31)
4. LB Ryan Shazier (23)
5. C Maurkice Pouncey (23)
6. CB Artie Burns (21)
7. LB Bud Dupree (16)
T-8. DE Cam Heyward (14)
T-8. DT Stephon Tuitt (14)
10. LB Vince Williams (10)
Brown claimed the top spot on three ballots (Burke, Marston, Single), with Bell right behind him at No. 2 on all of them. A fourth ballot (Baskin) flip-flopped them, with Bell at No. 1 and Brown at No. 2. The only voter to run against the grain was Klemko, who put the pressure for Pittsburgh’s 2017 success on the defense—Williams, Dupree and Harrison occupied his top three, in that order.
Was Shazier slightly overlooked in the process? He was ranked No. 3 by Marston and Single, and No. 4 by Burke, but fell off the Baskin and Klemko ballots. In some ways, his results get to the heart of this endeavor, which forced each voter to determine exactly how to define a team’s “most important” player. Most talented? Most irreplaceable? Most in need of a breakthrough season for his team to get over the top? Answers, and results, varied.
Bette Marston defends her fourth-place vote for Maurkice Pouncey: Sure, Pouncey has struggled with injuries over the past few seasons, but he's the cog at the center of the NFL's third-ranked offensive line in the eyes of Pro Football Focus. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only 17 times last season, and Pouncey’s presence in the middle earns him a good chunk of the credit.
Other Steelers receiving votes: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (eight points); LT Alejandro Villanueva (seven); WR Eli Rogers, CB Ross Cockrell, G David DeCastro (six); CB Marcus Gilbert (five); LB T.J. Watt (three); S Sean Davis, WR Martavis Bryant (two); DT Javon Hargrave, S Mike Mitchell (one).