It's Troy, But It's Oh So Close

Mike Prisuta took an informal poll of Steelers players and staffers to find the team MVP, and learned there's more balance here than individual brilliance.

Ask around the Steelers' South Side practice facility about the identity of the team MVP through 12 games and the most consistent reaction you'll get is a sigh and a blank stare.

Players and staffers alike have to think that one through for a while.

That's a reflection of a team that's achieved a 9-3 record much more through various individuals coming through when the team needed them to than by one or two individuals consistently carrying the team.

The most often referenced candidate is Troy Polamalu.

Coming off of what Polamalu did on Sunday night in Baltimore that's hardly a surprise.

Polamalu hasn't been Superman all season for the Steelers. But on those increasingly noticeable occasions when he does something superhuman at just the right instant it's impossible not to grasp the significance of such acts.

Ask Joe Flacco.

But Polamalu has company, to the extent that he's probably not a slam dunk to be voted as the successor to Ben Roethlisberger, who was selected by his teammates as MVP in 2009.

Roethlisberger will be mentioned, and already has been. His gritty-as-it-needed-to-be effort in a had-to-have-it win over the Ravens by far overshadowed his not being available for the first four games.

James Farrior will also garner some support; at least he did in Fourth & Goal's Wednesday straw poll. It's not that Farrior has been all that spectacular. It's his body of work, one that has been far superior this season to what Farrior was able to produce a season ago.

James Harrison is also having another MVP-type season, after having actual Steelers MVP seasons in 2007 and 2008. Harrison has become something of a folk hero in the locker room because he's been persecuted, penalized and fined. The voting of Harrison for a third such award this season might constitute a symbolic middle finger raised in the direction of the National Football League on the part of the Steelers, and it's doubtful many if any Steelers would have a problem with that right about now.

The dark horse candidate is my personal favorite, at least through 12 games. That would be center Maurkice Pouncey.

He's blown away veterans with what has been perceived as unprecedented poise and production as a rookie.

He's been referred to since training camp as "the franchise" by some staffers.

And he's been the most constant, most consistent presence in an offensive line that's otherwise seemingly been in an almost constant state of flux.

That offensive line still needs a little work, but it's come a long way from where it was a year ago. And with all due respect to my Spartan brother Flozell Adams, it isn't because Adams replaced Willie Colon at right tackle.

The Steelers have run the ball much better this season, and they've solved their "A-gap problem." The quarterbacks have actually been able to step up in the pocket.

Pouncey's wobbled a little of late (Haloti Ngata will have that effect) but it's a sobering thought to imagine where the Steelers might be without him.

Although he wasn't mentioned on Wednesday, a couple more big games from Rashard Mendenhall (1,007 rushing yards, nine TDs) might yet get him into the mix. In the end, though, no one will argue if it's Polamalu, who amazingly hasn't won one of these things yet.

He may have proved he deserved it last year by not playing much and thus allowing everyone to see just how far into the crapper the defense falls without him. But if he wins it, it won't be by a landslide. This is a team that has become a first-place team much more on balance than individual brilliance.

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