Steelers-Ravens: Five Questions

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
[url=""] ... tions.html[/url]

Saturday December 26, 2009 06:00 PM

Q: Whatís the Steelersí NFL ranking in turnover ratio?

A: Theyíre tied for 22nd at minus-5. Their defense has taken the ball away only 16 times (eight forced fumbles, eight interceptions) while the offense has lost it 21 times (12 INTs, nine fumbles).

By comparison, last year when the Steelers won the Super Bowl, they were plus-4 with 29 takeaways and 25 giveaways.

The NFL leaders in turnover ratio are the Packers (9-5) at plus-18, Eagles (10-4) at plus-17 and Saints (13-1) at plus-13.

Q: What dubious milestone might the Steelersí defense achieve this season?

A: With only eight picks, the Steelers are on pace to have the teamís worst interception total of the 44-year Super Bowl era. The previous low was 11 INTs in 2007.

The Steelersí lowest interception total before that was 10 in 1955 when NFL teams played 12 games each season.

In their last six games, the Steelers do not have an interception. Their cornerbacks have failed to pick off a pass all season.

The Steelers have not recorded an interception since Nov. 9 in Denver. With eight picks on the season, they're tied for second-to-last in the league with Oakland. Cleveland is last with six.

Q: How many Steelers will make it to the Pro Bowl?

A: Tuesday when the NFL announces its Pro Bowl rosters, only two or three Steelers at the most figure to be named to the annual all-star game.

Although heís not dominating like he did the last two years, James Harrison should be one of three outside linebackers chosen. Heís tied for ninth in the league with 10 sacks.

The only other defenders who have a chance are nose tackle Casey Hampton and outside backer LaMarr Woodley, who has 9.5 sacks.

Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger has the best shot of making the AFC roster as one three quarterbacks. Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and San Diegoís Philip Rivers are locks, so the third spot will come down to Roethlisberger, New Englandís Tom Brady or maybe even Houstonís Matt Shaub.

Steelers tight end Heath Miller is having his best season with 68 catches for 698 yards and five TDs. But San Diegoís Antonio Gates (78/1,145/7TDs) and Indyís Dallas Clark (89/997/10TDs) have posted better numbers.

It should be pointed out that because the Pro Bowl is being played the week before the Super Bowl this year, there could be several changes in the Pro Bowl rosters. Super Bowl participants wonít play in the Pro Bowl and will be need to be replaced.
Advertisement Buckstove and Fireplace

The Pro Bowl rosters are determined by a three-way vote of NFL players, coach and fans.

Two Steelers led the fansí vote: Harrison and strong safety Troy Polamalu, whoís missed most of the season with knee injuries.

Q: Has Daniel Sepulveda lived up to his billing?

A: First, letís not blame the Steelersí current plight as a 7-7 team on their punter. Remember, they won the Super Bowl last year when Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster were among the NFLís worst punters.

That being said, Sepulveda has been solid punter at best this year in his return after a season-ending knee injury in 2008. Heís tied for 22nd in the league with a 43.3 yard per kick average.

Heís 22nd in net average (which factors in kick coverage) at 37.9.

To his credit, Sepulveda is fifth in the league with 27 punts downed inside the opponentís 20-yard line.

Still, Sepulveda is the only two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award, an award given since 2000 to the top punter in college football. And the Steelers did in essence use two draft picks to get him in 2007. They traded up in the fourth round by giving away their picks in the fourth and sixth rounds.

Time, will tell if Sepulveda ever develops into an all-star punter.

Q: Who will be the Steelersí MVP this year?

A: How can it not be Ben Roethlisberger?

ďBig BenĒ has never won the teamís Most Valuable Player award as voted upon by the Steelersí players Ö not even in 2007 when he threw a franchise-record 32 TDs passes.

James Harrison has won team MVP honors the past two years, but that streak should end this year unless he single-handedly beats the Ravens today.

This week, the Steelers will vote for their MVP.

Meanwhile, newspaper reporters who cover the team regularly will choose the Steelersí Rookie of the Year and Chief Award winner, given to the player who cooperates best with the media.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace will be a unanimous top rookie pick.

Tackle Willie Colon is favored to win the Chief Award.