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Steelers 2010 Awards

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After missing the playoffs for the first time under Mike Tomlin a season ago, the Steelers bounced back in 2010 to win the AFC North for the third time in Tomlin's four years at the helm. PSR Steelers beat writer Ken Torgent breaks down the key players in the team's success.

OFFENSIVE MVP: Ben Roethlisberger, QB - Yes, the Steelers went 3-1 without Big Ben in the first four games of the season but make no mistake, this team needs its star quarterback to be in the lineup to have a realistic chance of picking up Super Bowl No. 7. Despite the four-game layoff, Roethlisberger was the same quarterback he’d been in the past: efficient with the ball, a solid contributor on the ground, and clutch when the team needs him to be. He’ll never be a prototypical pocket passer, but he will always be in the conversation of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
DEFENSIVE MVP: Troy Polamalu, SS - Simply put, Polamalu has been Pittsburgh’s best player overall this season and was a major force behind the team’s defensive onslaught in September. Before a knee injury finally bumped him out of the lineup in December, Polamalu was as clutch as they came, coming up with big play after big play in a number of close games in the second-half of 2010. With a late interception against Buffalo, a strip-sack to set up the game-winning score in Baltimore, and a pick-six to take the lead against Cincinnati, Polamalu has been the biggest reason that Pittsburgh has returned to the postseason and his health is perhaps the biggest factor in whether the team wins or loses on Sunday.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Maurkice Pouncey, C - Pittsburgh has a history of keeping rookies on the bench early in their careers, no matter how highly-touted they are. Pouncey bucked that trend becoming one of the rare young Steelers to start every game in his rookie season. What’s more amazing is that he stepped right into the lineup at center, taking control of the offensive line from day one. The first-year star is in position to garner some postseason awards such as a Pro Bowl nod and possibly his first of what could be many All-Pro selections.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER, OFFENSE: MIKE WALLACE, WR - Wallace was a revelation as a rookie in 2009, but the team would need him to step up his game to make up for the production lost by the offseason trade of Santonio Holmes. Wallace did his part, becoming the team’s most dangerous weapon on offense and perhaps the most dangerous big-play threat in the entire NFL. He also picked up steam as the year wore on, ramping up his production in yards, receptions, and touchdowns over the second half of the season.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER, DEFENSE: Lawrence Timmons, ILB - Just like Wallace, Lawrence Timmons was a solid contributor last season who blossomed into a full-fledged star in 2010. In fact, Timmons’ defensive prowess may have been the biggest reason that the Steelers flourished over the first four weeks without Ben Roethlisberger. The fourth-year linebacker is the team’s leading tackler this season and is a big reason why Pittsburgh’s run defense is far-and-away the best in the league.
TOP ASSISTANT COACH: Sean Kugler, offensive line coach - Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been an issue ever since the break-up of the 2005 Super-Bowl-winning group. Kugler arrived in the offseason and was charged with restoring glory to the unit, a task which hit an early speed bump with an offseason injury to Willie Colon, the team’s starting right tackle. Kugler came in stressing the importance of fundamentals and has kept the line rolling at a respectable level despite a bevy of other injuries to almost every member of the the line. Kugler’s approach is just what the team needed and it will be exciting to see what he does with a healthy group in the future.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Pittsburgh at Tennessee, Week 2 - While perhaps no game was more important than the team’s win over Baltimore in Week 13, Pittsburgh’s battle against Tennessee in Week 2 showed the NFL what the Steelers defense is capable of when it’s clicking on all cylinders. The team forced a total of seven turnovers in a 19-11 win over the Titans, allowing the Steelers, who were held to just 127 yards on offense, to prevail in a tight early-season contest.
PLAY OF THE YEAR: Troy Polamalu’s strip-sack against Baltimore, Week 13 - Again, no game was more important to the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers than the December win over Baltimore. The rivals entered the game tied at 8-3 with Baltimore claiming the team’s earlier matchup in October. A win would mean pole position in the AFC North. With the Ravens leading 10-6 late in the fourth quarter and driving for a game-sealing touchdown, Troy Polamalu broke through the line, sacked quarterback Joe Flacco, and forced the fumble that set up a game-winning touchdown by Ben Roethlisberger, winning the game for Pittsburgh and putting them ahead in the division.

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