An early Christmas gift came for Steelers' players when they were selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl. Eight players, the most the team has had since 2005 when nine were selected and the most of any NFL team this year, were voted in. Le'Veon Bell, Chris Boswell, Antonio Brown, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Shazier and Alejandro Villanueva were all selected to the AFC squad in the annual game. All but Roethlisberger and Shazier were voted in as starters.
This is the 17th straight season the Steelers are sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl, and the 26th time in the last 29 seasons.
Le'Veon Bell, who was the overall leading vote-getter among the fans, was selected to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career. Bell has 307 carries for 1,222 yards, a four-yard average, and eight rushing touchdowns. He is averaging 87.3 yards per game. With two games to play he is on pace to set a career high in rushing yards, set in 2014 when he rushed for 1,361 yards.
Bell, who currently is the NFL's leading rusher, also has 80 receptions for 627 yards, a 10.3 yard per catch average, and two touchdowns.
Bell eclipsed the 1,200-yard rushing mark for the third time in his career, and for the second consecutive year. He is the third Steelers running back to record 1,200 rushing yards in consecutive seasons, joining Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis with that distinction. He also surpassed 1,800 yards from scrimmage for the second consecutive season, the first player in team history to do so in consecutive seasons.
Bell rushed for 117 yards against the Patriots, his 18th 100-yard game of his career, ranking fifth in Steelers history, and his fourth game this season with at least 100 yards rushing. He also passed Franco Harris for most receptions by a Steelers running back.
Take a look at which Steelers have been selected for the 2018 Pro Bowl.
Chris Boswell has come through again and again for the Steelers this year, and others have taken notice as he was voted to his first Pro Bowl.
Boswell has connected on 33 of 36 field goal attempts this year, and 29 of 31 extra point attempts. He is four-for-four from 50 yards or more, something that Coach Mike Tomlin had challenged him to do.
"Nothing is too big for this guy," said special teams coordinator Danny Smith. "It becomes a mindset. It's just a matter of emphasis."
Boswell has had four game-winning field goals this season, including three as time expired against the Colts, Packers and Bengals. His 53-yard game-winning field goal against the Packers tied the record for longest field goal at Heinz Field.
Boswell was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Bengals, when he hit three field goals, including one with time expiring in the first half, and one with no time left on the clock at the end of the game for a 23-20 win.
"You've got to remember the same thing you do every time," said Boswell. "You can't put too much pressure on one kick, not enough on another kick. It's just kick by kick. You just move on with it."
While Bell led the fan vote, Antonio Brown wasn't far behind at No. 3 overall in voting, and rightfully so. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time, including five consecutive.
Brown, who suffered a calf injury against the Patriots and had to leave the game in the second quarter, has 101 receptions for 1,533 yards, a 15.2 yard per catch average, and nine touchdowns. He has averaged 109.5 yards per game through the first 14 games of the season.
Brown, who is the NFL's leading receiver, became the first player in NFL history with five consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by today's players, or those who played before him, including two Steelers Hall of Famers.
"A couple of years ago when I was back here in Pittsburgh Antonio said let me rub your hands a little bit," said Lynn Swann. "I said Antonio, you don't need to rub my hands. You only need to do one thing. Make people forget about the other receivers who were here before you. Climb that ladder and be as good as you can be. He is making that happen."
When your running back, receiver and quarterback make the Pro Bowl, it should come as no surprise that the offensive line is represented because it all starts up front.
Maurkice Pouncey has been selected for the sixth time, David DeCastro will make his third trip to the Pro Bowl, and Alejandro Villanueva has made it for the first time.
"They are the best line in the league," said Ben Roethlisberger. "They really are the reason I stay upright and healthy. They are the most important part of this team because as they go, we go."
The line has paved the way for Bell to be the NFL's leading rusher, and that is something that hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Those guys always get the job done," said Bell. "You see the way they work in practice. They are always striving to get the job done. When one guy goes down, the next guy steps up. That shows the brotherhood of the offensive line and how much they understand the game because they always keep it going.
"I wouldn't want to run behind any other offensive line. I wouldn't want to run behind anybody else. I see how hard those guys work. I couldn't imagine anybody else working that hard. I am happy with my guys.
"It's the best offensive line in the world. They should all be in the Pro Bowl."
Ben Roethlisberger was selected to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in his career. Roethlisberger has completed 340 passes for 4,025 yards so far this season, and has eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his career. He is averaging 287.5 yards per game and has thrown 26 touchdowns.
He is the AFC's sixth leading passer with a 92.2 quarterback rating, but his 340 completions and 4,025 yards rank second in the conference.
"Ben, that's my guy," said Brown. "Ben's our leader. Ben's a Hall of Fame quarterback. He is so much fun to play with. He made some amazing throws. He makes them every day. He is a general, a warrior, a leader. I am glad I got to play with him for a lot of years."
Roethlisberger was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Ravens in Week 14, when he led them to a 39-38 come-from-behind win. Roethlisberger completed 44 of 66 passes, both career highs and team records, for an incredible 506 yards. Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns, and no interceptions, against a defense that was No. 1 in takeaways and ranked No. 1 in interceptions in the NFL going into the game.
Roethlisberger became the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 500 yards in three games, and his 506 passing yards is the 10th 400-yard or more game of his career, the fifth player in NFL history with at least 10 400-yard games.
Roethlisberger's 506 yards passing also marked the fourth 450-yard or more game of his career, tying Dan Marino for the most in NFL history.
When Ryan Shazier suffered a season-ending spine injury against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 4, the outpouring of support from players and fans from around the NFL was overwhelming.
Well, let's just say it appears those people are still 100 percent behind Shazier, as he was voted to the Pro Bowl despite being placed on injured reserve.
Shazier has begun his rehabilitation at UPMC, and surprised his teammates and Steelers fans by showing up at the game against the Patriots and sitting in a luxury suite.
This is the first time that Shazier was voted to the Pro Bowl, although he was selected as an alternate in 2016.
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The 2018 Pro Bowl will be played at Camping World Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and simulcast on ABC.