By Alan Robinson
The Top 200 is out, and 11 Steelers are on the charts.
And the player selected as the Steelers’ best could be considered to be something of a surprise.
Scouts, Inc., annually ranks the top 200 NFL players before the season starts. This season’s list is led by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, followed by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (the first non-QB on the list) and former Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis of the Jets, who is chosen as the league’s best defensive player.
The rest of the top 10: Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (that’s two ex-Pitt players in the top 8), Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (ex-Woodland Hills High School) and 49ers defensive end Justin Smith.
The first Steelers player to make the list at No. 14 isn’t James Harrison or Troy Polamalu but … quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was considered by most everyone in the league – except the Steelers players who voted on the award – to the be the team’s most valuable player last season. Scouts, Inc., rates Roethlisberger as the NFL’s fourth best quarterback, behind only Rodgers, Brady and Brees.
Immediately behind Roethlisberger at No. 15 is two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning of the Giants, followed by brother Peyton Manning of the Broncos.
Scouts, Inc.’s analysis of Ben Roethlisberger circa 2012 includes these remarks: “He has great vision and instincts in the pocket and is one of the best at improvising under duress. He can make throws from all angles and can power the ball into tight windows, which can get him in trouble at times. He will force the ball into coverage.”
Incidentally, running back LeSean McCoy of the Eagles is No. 29, which gives Pitt three players in the top 30.
The other Steelers in the Scouts, Inc., Top 200 (and some of the scouts’ observations):
No. 19—OLB James Harrison, “one of the most physical players in the league at his position.”
No. 22—S Troy Polamalu, “one of the most impactful safeties in the last 20 years.”
No. 61—WR Mike Wallace, “average size with excellent athleticism … explosive speed and can stretch deep zones.”
No. 83—OLB LaMarr Woodley, “brings attitude, experience and game-changing playmaking ability.”
No. 104—C Maurkice Pouncey, “smart, instinctive center who already plays at a high level.”
No. 110—ILB Lawrence Timmons, “quick reactor and plays with excellent run fits to the line of scrimmage.”
No. 111—WR Antonio Brown, “can get separation and can stretch deep zones on the perimeter.”
123—CB Ike Taylor, “solid run-support defender and can be physical discarding blockers.”
162—DE Brett Keisel, “has power to set the edge as a run defender and uses active hands and proper pad level to restrict running lanes.”
196—NT Casey Hampton, “draws double teams often and is one of the main reasons for the Steelers’ outstanding run defense.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.