By Daniel Benjamin
Pittsburgh Steelers fans are known as some of the most passionate in professional sports, and they came out in droves for the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl Voting. A league-high eight Steelers were selected to participate in the annual game, which will take place in Orlando for the second time ever.
Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown headline the list of Steelers chosen, which includes six starters. Bell received the most votes with 855,539 while Brown was third in fan voting.
Bell leads the NFL with 1,222 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. He is second in rushing yards per game at 86.3, though he is averaging just 4.0 yards per carry. Bell, who has topped the 1,200-yard mark on the ground for the second consecutive season and the third time in his career, needs 169 more yards match his personal best of 1,361 yards set in 2014.
Bell is coming off his first 100-yard game in two months, tallying 117 yards on 24 carries and 1 touchdown against the New England Patriots. He has four 100-yard games this season and 18 for his career.
The 25-year-old from Michigan State also tops the league with 1,849 scrimmage yards and 387 total touches. He has been particularly active in the passing game lately, hauling in 45 of his 80 receptions over the last six games. He is the first player in team history to surpass the 1,800 yard mark in consecutive seasons and has moved past Franco Harris as the franchise’s top pass-catching running back with 307 receptions.
This is the third Pro Bowl that Bell has been selected for.
Brown has been selected to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl and six overall. The NFL’s leading receiver has 101 catches for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns. He is the first player in NFL history to post five consecutive seasons of 100 or more receptions. However, his regular season is over after suffering a calf injury against the Pats.
The Steelers’ offensive line has been outstanding this entire season and is a major reason the team has the No. 7 offense and is averaging the 10th most points in the league. As a result, the Steelers had three offensive linemen selected as starters: Center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro and LT Alejandro Villanueva. It is the sixth time that Pouncey has been so honored. DeCastro has been picked for his third Pro Bowl while it is the first time Villanueva has be chosen.
The Steelers’ offensive line is ranked eighth in run blocking and first in pass blocking according to Football Outsiders. They are giving up the second fewest sacks (21) and third fewest quarterback hits (56).
Ben Roethlisberger has been selected to his sixth Pro Bowl, although he is one of the two players not selected as a starter. Injured Ryan Shazier, who most definitely deserved to be selected and obviously won’t play in the game, was also picked as a reserve.
Kicker Chris Boswell, who is tied for fourth in the league with a 91.7 kicking percentage, was the eighth Steeler to be selected; this is his first Pro Bowl selection.
Noticeably absent was Cameron Heyward. The defensive end is a team captain and has an impressive 10 sacks on the season thus far.