With the Pittsburgh Steelers at the midway point of the season coming on a bye week, it felt like a good time to reflect on the first half. Who were the most influential players on the team? If the Steelers were to give out awards to the team, who would win them?
Pittsburgh Steelers Midseason Awards
Most Valuable Player: Antonio Brown
This came down to Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Shazier and Cameron Heyward. However, while the defense has been the better unit, all 11 players have been on the same page. The offense has been trying to find itself all season. However, through the good, the bad in the ugly, Antonio Brown has been able to keep the unit from completely flat lining. This season he has done the most for his particular unit and deserves the nod.
Offensive Player of the Year: Le’Veon Bell
With Brown winning the MVP, Bell is easily the choice to be the offensive player of the year. The duo carry the offense. Bell is second in the NFL in rushing yards, and it took him two or three games to get into game shape after holding out for all of training camp. The Steelers have found an identity over the past four weeks, and that identity is centered around Bell. Projecting forward, he could easily be the MVP and could see national recognition for Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Cameron Heyward
Heyward has come back from missing the season due to a pectoral injury about halfway through his 2016 campaign. He has not only come back healthy, he is playing the best football of his career. He is on pace for 10 sacks, a career high, and has been pushing pockets and clogging run holes all season. Ryan Shazier is another candidate to be in this conversation, but he is a boom, bust player. Heyward is consistent on essentially a snap to snap basis, giving him the edge.
Rookie of the Year: T.J. Watt
The Steelers have had some unexpected impacts from rookies, but T.J. Watt takes the cake. He may even be in the conversation for defensive rookie of the year across the league. Watt has four sacks, two interceptions, and a plethora of tackles. He drops into coverages, can rush the passer, and defend the run. He has exceeded expectations at every point this season, and it should only continue as he gets going.
Assistant Coach of the Year: Carnell Lake
The Steelers secondary got a jolt of talent over the past couple of seasons, but it is Carnell Lake who has done a good job adjusting to it. Artie Burns was a first round pick, but was raw and was drafted more for what he can be than what he is. Over one and a half years, he has started to transform into what the Steelers had hoped, and Lake deserves credit. He also took Joe Haden, who had a bad year in a man scheme, and gave him safety help in the zone. He is playing to his strengths much more than what the Cleveland Browns did with Haden. On top of that, finding and developing Mike Hilton into a starter in the slot is as impressive as it gets.