Antonio Brown, left, celebrates after touchdown by Jerricho Cotchery, right, at Heinz Field on Dec. 8.
By Bob Smizik / Special to the Post-Gazette
The news that wide receiver Antonio Brown was named the Steelers Most Valuable Player in a vote of his teammates was not met with universal approval.
• How dare the players overlook Ben Roethlisberger, went the chorus from the anti-Brown camp.
• Have they forgotten the infamous Ben turnover-machine that helped forge that 0-4 start, came the response from the pro-Brown crowd.
It was a tough call in what was beyond doubt a two-man race. Since guidelines are rarely established in MVP voting, it’s hard to criticize the choice of Brown. Besides, who should know better their MVP than the players themselves.
The award might be better served if it were presented to the Most Outstanding Player. In that context Brown was a more logical winner. Not even Roethlisberger’s most ardent supporters could argue that he had a more outstanding season than Brown.
Brown is second in the NFL in receptions with 101 and third in yardage with 1,412. That figure represents a team record that had stood since 1997. Roethlisberger, in comparison, is seventh in yards, 4,082, and ninth in passer rating, 93.7. Throw in the fact that Brown is third in punt-return average and it’s a pretty clear case that he is the team’s MOP.
MVP is another matter. The case can almost always be made that the quarterback is, at least, the offensive MVP. Quarterback is easily the most important position on the field. He handles the ball on almost every snap. He is the most important player on the majority of the snaps. It’s not easy for another offensive player to beat out a quarterback for MVP, especially a quarterback of Roethlisberger’s stature and statistics.
MVP has a catchy ring to it, but all it does it cause confusion in almost any voting, and with it some degree of discontent. MOP is not nearly so catchy but far more easily defined.
But here’s a better idea. Rather than renaming the award, discontinue it. Yep, do away with it. There’s no NFL rule I'm aware of that says a team must elect an MVP.
If coach Mike Tomlin decided to discontinue the award, I can guarantee two things would happen:
• There would be fan grumbling.
• Within a year the award would be forgotten.
The Steelers have been electing MVPs since 1969, which would indicate the award might have been the idea of Chuck Noll, since that was his first season as coach. Understandably, no coach would be eager to discontinue an award put in place by the revered Noll.
But, really, this award serves almost no good purpose. It provides a news story for one day on a team that is not in need of additional news story. Nor is it necessarily a good news story. It’s good news for the winner, not so good for the players in contention who did not win and for the players who supported them.
This is not to suggest that this award could become a divisive issue within the team. By all accounts, the Steelers are bigger than that. But why push what can be a bad thing?
The case can be made that Roethlisberger not only plays the most important position on the team but in playing that position he has built a Hall of Fame resume. But in 10 years on the team, he’s been MVP once. In four years, Brown, who has not come close to etching a Hall of Fame career, has won twice. That could be construed as odd.
I don’t believe Roethlisberger is pouting over not winning the award. He’s bigger than that. But maybe the next quarterback might have a more fragile psyche. Or maybe the next player who believes he’s in line to win it and doesn’t might be that guy with the fragile psyche.
Not only is the award capable of creating a rift between the winner and runnerup, it can also fester animosity between the offensive and defensive units. There was no obvious defensive candidate this year. But there usually are players on both sides of the ball who are under consideration for the award.
It just seems the significance of the award is not worth the headaches it might cause -- or possibly have caused in the past.
• • •
In other news that might cause some legitimate discontent among the fan base, two Steelers were named to the Pro Bowl -- Brown and safety Troy Polamalu. Brown also was named as a punt returner. In a significant departure from the past, the players were not picked by conference. There is one pool of players and teams will be drafted from that pool on Jan. 22.
There was not necessarily an even split between conferences among the various positions. For example, five of the six running backs selected were from the NFC.
The quarterbacks selected ahead of Roethlisberger: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson.
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