By Mark Kaboly
Le'Veon Bell (Nick Wass/AP)
Two names instantly came to Mike Mitchell's mind when voting for Steelers' MVP — Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell.
Worthy choices, indeed, as Brown leads the NFL in receptions and yards, and Bell has passed 2,000 total yards from scrimmage.
“I thought it was a pretty easy decision (getting it to) Le'Veon and Antonio,” Mitchell said. “That's where it got tough. How do I choose one of these?”
Some chose Brown, most picked Bell and, once again, not enough went with Ben Roethlisberger
Bell became just the fifth Steelers' running back to be named team MVP and first since 2006, beating out Brown, who won it last year, and outdistancing Roethlisberger despite the veteran quarterback being in the midst of a career year.
Roethlisberger has been named MVP only once in 11 years, and that was 2009. That year, Roethlisberger beat out worthy candidates in Hines Ward (95-1,167-6) and Santonio Holmes (79-1,248-5). This year, he couldn't do the same.
“It is easy to give it to Ben every year,” guard Ramon Foster said. “You don't want to take him for granted being that he makes so many plays for us, as much as he has taken on and carried us through a lot of games.”
Roethlisberger is having the best year of his career. He has eight 300-yard games including 400- and 500-yard games. His 30 touchdowns are the second most of his career and his 4,635 yards already are 300 more than the year he won his only team MVP.
Roethlisberger has been durable as well in helping the Steelers offense ascend to No. 2 overall. He has missed only seven snaps in two years, and that's only because the Steelers had a big fourth-quarter lead in Carolina earlier in the season.
“You almost expect it, right, because he has been doing it for so long,” Mitchell said. “He has been doing it at such a high level for so long. When you get a young guy — Le'Veon is only 22. We expect that from Ben. We expect that from AB. For me, being my first year on this team, I already heard of Ben. I already heard of AB. But seeing Le'Veon come out of nowhere is why I voted for him.”
Bell has been the main cog in an offense that has the Steelers within a game of their first AFC North title in four years.
After a year in which he battled through injuries and ineffectiveness as a rookie second-round pick, Bell has put up a franchise-record 2,115 yards from scrimmage and team records for running backs with 77 receptions and 774 yards with a game to play.
“Being the MVP is not something that I could do on my own,” Bell said. “I had a lot of help from my teammates, especially the offensive line. The MVP is an individual award, but it's really a team award in my eyes because I can't do it without my teammates.
“Those guys deserve it just as much as I do.”
Bell is second in the NFL with 1,341 rushing yards and became one of four players in NFL history to record at least 1,300 rushing yards and 750 receiving yards in the same season (Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson and Brian Westbrook).
Bell also joined Walter Payton as the only player to record 200 yards from scrimmage in three straight games when he went for 222, 254 and 235 against the Titans, Saints and Bengals.
“The things he did this year and more than just the running game — the passing game, catching the ball, blocking,” Roethlisberger said. “When you think of an MVP, he is the guy who should come to mind.”
Brown won the award two out of the past three years, including 2011, his second year in the league.
“I am excited for him. He really deserved it,” Brown said. “But, you can make a case for a lot of guys in the locker room.”
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