Christmas came early for a handful of Steelers' players when they were selected to the 2017 Pro Bowl. Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey all will play for the AFC squad in the annual game. This is the 16th straight season the Steelers are sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl, and the 25th time in the last 28 seasons.
Le'Veon Bell's numbers are scary right now, and it's even scarier to think what they would be like if he hadn't missed the first three games of the season serving an NFL suspension.
Bell, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career, has carried the ball 241 times for 1,146 yards, a 4.8-yard average, and six touchdowns. But he is a dual threat for the offense, second on the team in receiving with 72 receptions for 601 yards, an 8.3-yard average, and one touchdown. Bell has accounted for 1,747 total yards from scrimmage, first in the AFC, and there are still two games to play.
"The numbers don't lie," said Roosevelt Nix. "And you are talking about somebody who missed three games. Who knows what would have happened if he played in those games."
Bell, the AFC's second leading rusher and third in the NFL, had a career day in the 27-20 win over the Bills in Week 14, rushing for a Steelers' single-game record 236 yards on a career-high 38 carries. Bell also had the hat trick, scoring three touchdowns for the first time in his career. Bell added four receptions for 62 yards, for a total of 298 yards from scrimmage. Bell, who rushed for more yards than any back ever did against the Bills, went over 1,000 yards for the season for the second time in his career. He also tied the Steelers' record for most 200-yard rushing games in a career with two, tying Willie Parker.
Bell became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards in his career, doing so in just 38 games. Bell also hit the 5,000 yards from scrimmage mark in just 42 career games, setting a team record for fewest games to reach the milestone.
* * *
When you think about Steelers' receivers, you think about some great players. Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Hines Ward and now Antonio Brown. Brown, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time including four consecutive, leads the Steelers in receiving with 96 receptions for 1,188 yards and has a team-high 11 touchdowns. He became the first player in team history with 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in three straight seasons (2014-16), and the first player in team history to record 90 receptions in four straight seasons.
"I love Antonio Brown," said Bills' Coach Rex Ryan prior to the Steelers Week 13 game in Buffalo. "If he is not the best receiver, shoot, I don't know who is. He is also a heck of a kid."
Even his fiercest rivals can't help but sing his praises.
"I love playing against AB. He is the real deal," said Bengals Adam 'Pacman' Jones. "If not the best in the league, he is definitely in the top 2, 3, 4 guy. You better tighten your shoes up and be ready when you play against him because he is going to give you everything he's got. I always look forward to playing him. He can do everything. What can't he do?" Brown is a constant highlight reel, making circus catches, pulling off moves to elude defenders and turning on the afterburners when he needs to.
Brown, the AFC's leading receiver and second overall in the NFL with 96 receptions, has started 50 consecutive regular season games, and has recorded at least one reception in 98 consecutive regular season games. Against the Bengals he set an NFL record for the most catches in any four-year span with 471, surpassing Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison who held the record at 469. Brown also set the record for the most receptions in a player's first 100 career regular-season games (622),
Like fine wine, Ben Roethlisberger keeps getting better with age. Roethlisberger, who is in his 13th season, has been selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time.
Roethlisberger has completed 304 passes for 3,540 yards, and with two games remaining could eclipse the 4,000-yard mark for the fifth time in his career. Roethlisberger, who missed the New England game with a knee injury, has thrown 26 touchdown passes, and has been sacked only 17 times.
Roethlisberger leads a Steelers' offense that is ranked third overall in the AFC, second in passing, and seventh overall in the NFL, fifth in passing in the entire league.
"Ben has amazing talent, strong arm, strong guy, big in big games, clutch throws, makes something happen," said Steelers' Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. "I have always admired him. I have the greatest respect for the job he has done and how he handles himself as a professional."
Roethlisberger is tied for second in the AFC in pass completions of 25 yards or more (31) and is third in the conference in passing touchdowns (26). Roethlisberger keeps climbing the charts, currently 10th in NFL history with 298 touchdown passes, and passing yards at 46,535.
Steelers G David DeCastro played in his first Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
When you look at the success the Steelers' running game is having this year, combined with the success of the Steelers' passing game, it's no wonder the team is sending several offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl this year. Maurkice Pouncey has been selected for the fifth time and David DeCastro will make his second trip.
The line has led the way for Bell, the AFC's second leading rusher, and the rest of the ground game, and kept Roethlisberger clean, allowing just 17 sacks. The Steelers' offense is ranked third overall in the AFC, second in passing, and seventh overall in the NFL, fifth in passing in the entire league.
Pouncey and DeCastro, both former No. 1 picks, are key parts of an offensive line that allowed a league-low six sacks since the start of Week 8. The 17 sacks allowed are the second-fewest in the league this season.
Take a look at which Steelers have been selected for the 2017 Pro Bowl.
The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 29 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida and televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The game will return to the traditional AFC vs. NFC contest, with 44 players from each conference selected via voting from players, coaches, and fans.
As an added feature this year there will be a Pro Bowl Skills Showdown, led by Pro Bowl Legends Captains, which includes Steelers' Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis. The skills competition will include dodgeball, power relay challenge, precision passing, and best hands, which will feature a quarterback and receiver duo from each team showing off their skills. The Skills Showdown will air on Thursday, Jan. 26 on ESPN.
Order Tickets: The 2017 NFL Pro Bowl is your only chance to see the NFL's all-stars on the field together. Get your tickets now to see your Steelers and others up close and personal. Tickets are on sale now to see the NFL Pro Bowl on January 29 at Camping World Stadium. Visit probowl.com to buy your tickets today.