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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
Updated Nov. 9, 2010 @ 1:47 a.m. ET
You wouldn't know that the Steelers had dealt with much offseason drama by the way they have played this season up to the midway point.
Pittsburgh dominates the PFW Midseason All-Pro team, with a league-best four representatives — no other team even had three players make it — including three on defense and one on offense. Its run defense is head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL, and it shows on our list.
Two rookies in the trenches have impressed this season, including C Maurkice Pouncey, another Steeler.
The disappointing Cowboys were not represented, yet the Lions and Raiders each had two selections. Parity, anybody?
The Patriots, who had the NFL's best record through eight weeks, did not place a single player but did get their coach on the team — in typical Patriots fashion.
One of this season's themes has been that the top teams in the NFL are all in the AFC, and this list reflects it. Only 11 of the 28 members of our All-Pro team are from the NFC.
One other note: With so many teams playing 3-4 defenses, we decided this year, for the first time, to give you the best of both worlds by selecting four defensive linemen and four linebackers.
QB Peyton Manning, Colts: New offensive coordinator, expiring contract at the end of the season, a rash of injuries to teammates — no problem for Manning, who is still at the top of his game. He lost one of his favorite targets, TE Dallas Clark, for the season. RB Joseph Addai, WR Anthony Gonzalez and WR Austin Collie have all missed time because of injuries, and all Manning does is make everyone who replaces them better.
RB Adrian Peterson*, Vikings: The best between-the-tackles runner in the game, Peterson is having another terrific season amidst all the drama in Minnesota. Aside from his 80-yard TD run against the Lions, he hasn't had many huge runs, but consistently running 4-6 yards punishes defenses. And without Chester Taylor, Peterson has contributed more as a receiver.
RB Chris Johnson, Titans: After one of the best seasons ever for a running back, Johnson has seen opposing teams gear up to stop him, and his yards per carry is down. He probably won't tally 2,000 rushing yards again, but he's the key to the Titans' offense. Johnson has great patience in addition to his speed. Despite not being on a record-setting pace again, Johnson is one of the top backs in the league when it comes to finding the endzone.
WR Roddy White, Falcons: Despite leading the league in receptions, White is one of the more underrated receivers in the league. He is tremendously consistent, with 100 or more receiving yards in four of his first eight games. He's well-built, sure-handed and also a good blocker on the outside.
WR Calvin Johnson, Lions: When he's healthy, teams have been using cover-2 against the Lions, forcing Johnson to run intermediate routes — a new role for him, and he's thriving in it. With most of his catches being less than 20 yards, Johnson has been killing teams in the soft part of the defense and he is nearly unstoppable in the red zone going after jump balls.
TE Antonio Gates*, Chargers: Playing hurt with toe, ankle and foot injuries, Gates doesn't appear to have lost a step. Not only is he playing through pain, but with all the injuries to Chargers receivers, defenses know Gates will get the ball. All he has done is record the highest yards-per-catch average of his career while being a touchdown machine.
C Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers: Although he's only a rookie, Pouncey has played like a veteran. He is smart and athletic with ideal size for the position. He has stood up to every challenge he has faced from some tough nose tackles in his division, impressing those around the league with how well he has played.
OG Chris Snee*, Giants: With C Shaun O'Hara missing time, Snee has picked up the slack. The Giants are one of the top rushing teams in the league, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw finds more success running to the right, behind Snee. A battler with a nasty on-field disposition, Snee has committed only three penalties in '10.
OG Kris Dielman, Chargers: The three-time Pro Bowler continues to show his consistency, despite a Chargers rushing attack that has not been great. He is a tough mauler who wins individual battles and clears space. Dielman had to play without OLT Marcus McNeill next to him for the first five games, but the steady performer met the challenge.
OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson*, Jets: Along with C Nick Mangold, Ferguson gets credit for mentoring first-year starting OLG Matt Slauson as the Jets' O-line has paved the way for RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to be extremely productive. Ferguson had his way with Vikings DE Jared Allen and often leads Tomlinson to touchdowns.
OT Michael Roos, Titans: A very good all-around tackle, Roos is smart and has been a star for several years. He has started every game in his career, now entering its sixth season. Roos leads an offensive line that paves the way for one of the top running backs in the league, and the Titans have found more success through the air, as well, this season.
DE Trent Cole, Eagles: With a consistent motor on every play, Cole has been solid without much help around him on the D-line. Cole, who never takes a play off, is a great finisher, with three fourth-quarter sacks this season. Taking on tackles at least 50 pounds heavier, Cole is on pace to register a career high in sacks.
DE Osi Umenyiora, Giants: The Giants' defensive line has been dominant in '10, but Umenyiora is the biggest producer. Battling a knee injury, Umenyiora has modified his practice schedule so he can stay fresh, and it has shown. He looks like he did in his Pro Bowl seasons of 2005 and '07 — a nightmare for opposing QBs.
DT Haloti Ngata*, Ravens: Ngata could be having the best season of his career and has been much more of a pass-rushing threat. With rare athleticism and great strength, Ngata already has reached his career high in sacks. He anchors the defensive line and has shown versatility by making an impact from end and nose tackle this season.
DT Ndamukong Suh, Lions: The second rookie on this list, the No. 2 overall pick has been a monster. Suh leads all rookies and defensive tackles in sacks with his arsenal of moves. Suh is extremely strong and plays with a lot of enthusiasm. Head coach Jim Schwartz has not hidden his praise for Suh.
OLB James Harrison, Steelers: While he has gotten more attention for his violent hits that have angered the league, Harrison is having another outstanding season. He is very physical and a top-notch pass rusher. Harrison is great at getting under and around taller tackles en route to hitting opposing quarterbacks.
OLB Clay Matthews, Packers: Matthews has been incredibly productive and is one of the league's sack leaders — and that's despite missing one game because of injury. He has spent more time on the left side but moves all over the place and is being used creatively. The Packers' pass rush was visibly diminished with Matthews out. He is a great finisher who brings a constant motor to the field every day.
ILB Ray Lewis, Ravens: In his 15th season, Lewis is still a menace in the middle of the Ravens' defense. He has stepped up big in crucial games, with an INT in a win over the Steelers and a critical forced fumble in Week Seven to prevent an upset loss to the Bills.
ILB Lawrence Timmons, Steelers: Timmons, in his fourth season, has been much better against the run this year. He has good speed and is becoming an exceptional all-around linebacker. Part of a Steelers front seven that stops the run better than anyone, Timmons is also dangerous when he blitzes.
CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders: A possible high ankle sprain could limit Asomugha the rest of the way, but at the midway point he continues to show he is a shutdown corner. Quarterbacks don't challenge him, instead targeting CB Stanford Routt. He is a consistent performer, a steady presence and a smart guy who is happy to be on a competitive Raiders team that boasts one of the league's top pass defenses.
CB Antonio Cromartie, Jets: After being beaten in Week One against the Ravens, Cromartie has locked down on top receivers, starting with Randy Moss in Week Two. A great on-the-ball player, Cromartie has outperformed Darrelle Revis, running step-for-step with No. 1 receivers down the sideline.
S Troy Polamalu, Steelers: Polamalu is as disruptive as ever after playing in just five games last season. He had interceptions in the first two games this season and thrives when he is deployed near the line of scrimmage or in coverage. One of the better ball hawks and hitters in the league, Polamalu is having another impact year on the vaunted Steelers "D."
S LaRon Landry, Redskins: The centerpiece of the Redskins' defense, Landry has been playing closer to the line this season and is making a huge impact. A hard hitter, Landry plays the run well and can match up with wideouts and tight ends underneath. Without having to read the QB in their scheme, Landry can fly around the defense to make tackles.
PK Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Scobee always has had a big leg but seems to be kicking with more confidence this season. He has one of the longest averages on field goals made in the league. His 59-yard game-winning field goal over the Colts is one of the plays of the year.
P Shane Lechler*, Raiders: Lechler has been far and away the best punter in the league. The 2009 PFW Golden Toe winner has been a consistent bailout guy for the Raiders' offense, averaging nearly 43 net yards per punt.
PR Devin Hester*, Bears: Remember when some wanted Hester off punt returns to focus on receiving? He has shown this season how valuable he is as a specialist with two punt-return TDs. As a result, teams have been kicking away from him like they used to do. Hester's still got it and he's affecting games the way he used to, almost bringing the Bears back on his own against the Seahawks.
KR Leon Washington*, Seahawks: Not many returners can single-handedly win games for their teams like Washington did against the Chargers, with two returns for TDs in a 27-20 victory. Keep in mind, he has done all this after suffering a severe broken leg a year ago.
Bill Belichick, Patriots: Defense wins championships? Well, Belichick's defense is statistically one of the worst in the league, yet the Patriots remain one of the best teams in the league. Starting as many as six rookies, Belichick is proving the Patriots don't rebuild, they reload. Trading Laurence Maroney and Randy Moss just allowed other guys to step up, and Belichick is finding ways to win with an extremely young defense.
* - Unanimous selection by PFW editors