Forget for a moment that the Steelers have a combined regular season record of 23 – 9 – 1 over the past 2 years. Forget that Pittsburgh has won its division the past two seasons. And forget a visit to the AFC Championship game two seasons ago. Okay, go ahead and forget that one completely, but only then does anyone with a sane mind have a case to place ZERO Steelers among the top 50 players in the NFL.
It would come as no surprise to any reader that this member of the media was formerly based out of Jacksonville, home of the former division rival Jaguars. And yes, I know that it's one man's opinion, but in this great country of ours one thing is clear: Opinions are made to be proven wrong.
Whether the bias is conscious or not is a subject of speculation that I won't get into here. I neither have the facts nor evidence to support the theory. Therefore, the best way to show the fallacy of said writer's "Top 50" NFL players list is to form my own team of players that failed to make it into his good graces. Composed of players missing from his "Top 50," I'm pleased to present the 2003 All-Overlooked Team.
I have one disclaimer that goes with this list. I am in no way stating that I believe these are the best 22 players in the league, nor the best at their positions. I am making the point that compiling a list of the top players in the NFL is like trying to decide which orange in a sack of oranges tastes best: After a while, they all start tasting the same. I'm merely suggesting that the team assembled below would go 19 – 0 during a season and subsequent playoff run, proving my point that attempting to pick the 50 best players in a game where stats enhance a player's stock is futile and asking for absurd responses.
|QB: Jeff Garcia (San Francisco)||Garcia's accuracy hasn't dropped below 60% during 5 seasons with the Niners. That's impressive when throwing to a one-horse receiving corps. He is also very mobile, amassing over 200 yards on the ground each season.|
|RB: Ahman Green (Green Bay)||Seattle dropped him because of fumbling problems, but he's been a bargain for Green Bay. In 3 seasons at Lambeau, Green has amassed 4,131 yards on the ground and 1,548 yards receiving out of the backfield.|
|RB: Curtis Martin (New York Jets)||Martin has 8 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and when he runs well, the NY Jets win. He's plagued by Jet coaches who fail to utilize him fully.|
|WR: Hines Ward (Pittsburgh)||The best and toughest all-around wide receiver in the league. Enough said.|
(New York Giants)
|He keyed the Giant passing attack before and after Ike Hilliard's season-ending injury. Toomer helped earn Kerry Collins a place in the CBS Top 50.|
|WR: Plaxico Burress (Pittsburgh)||He's quietly become one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. When his head is on straight, Burress is impossible to defend.|
|WR: Donald Driver (Green Bay)||His gutsy performance against Atlanta in last year's playoffs was legendary. Driver endeared himself to his Packer and NFL fans across the country. Only Hines Ward is tougher on the football field.|
|TE: Todd Heap (Baltimore)||Just because he played for the hapless Ravens doesn't mean Heap isn't deserving of strong accolades. He was basically the entire Ravens offense last season. So while you dream about your Tony Gonzalez's and you drool over your Jeremey Shockeys, don't forget about Todd Heap's 6 touchdowns and 52.2 yards per game.|
|McIntosh protected Drew Brees' blind-side very well (sacked only 25 times). He also helped open some mammoth holes for LaDanian Tomlinson. He's young, talented, and mean.|
|LG: Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh)||The two-time Pro Bowler is the best left guard in the league.|
|C: Kevin Mawae (New York Jets)||He inherited the title of "Best Center" from former Steeler center Dermontti Dawson in the late 90's and hasn't relinquished it yet.|
|RG: Will Shields (Kansas City)||The second-best guard in the NFL, Shields alongside RT John Tait formed an unstoppable right side for the Chiefs.|
|RT: John Tait (Kansas City)||The other component on the right side that helped open mammoth holes for superstar Priest Holmes.|
|DE: Hugh Douglas (Philadelphia)||The Eagles let him go because of his age, but he is still one of the premiere ends in the league.|
|DT: La'Roi Glover (Dallas)||He's quick, strong, and one of the only playmakers on the Cowboys defense.|
|DT: Casey Hampton (Pittsburgh)||Hampton's a big 300+ pound reason why Pittsburgh Steelers had the top rushing defense in the league for the second year in a row.|
|In his first two years in the league he's totaled 19 sacks. Carter is very fast for a defensive end.|
|LB: Ian Gold (Denver)||Gold, in his third year, replaced Bronco legend Bill Romanowski on the outside. Gold is super quick and more than made up for the loss.|
|LB: Zach Thomas (Miami)||The "Little Engine That Could" has recorded 100+ tackles in 7 of his 8 years in the league. He is the heart and soul of an undersized but quick Miami defense.|
|LB: Kendrell Bell (Pittsburgh)||Bell is an explosive battering ram. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001. Among linebackers, perhaps only Lavar Arrington is faster to the point of attack. Bell is beginning to show signs of above-average coverage skills.|
|LB: Joey Porter (Pittsburgh)||Porter, although a fierce pass-rusher, excelled for much of last season as the middle linebacker in Pittsburgh's dime package. He was one of the few bright spots in the Steelers' coverage units.|
|CB: Sam Madison (Miami)||Although some believe teammate Patrick Surtain had a better year, Madison is still the premiere cornerback for the Dolphins. He is entering his prime years with 26 interceptions in 7 seasons.|
|CB: Troy Vincent (Philadelphia)||Vincent's a big physical corner that proves a tough match for any receiver. He may be on the downside of his career, but if Kerry Collins makes the Top 50, then I can have Vincent on this list.|
|SS: Adam Archuleta (St. Louis)||Archuleta burst onto the scene 3 years ago as an explosive run stopper. He's a converted linebacker but reads the field very well.|
|FS: Roy Williams (Dallas)||Williams played very well as a rookie in a weak Cowboy secondary unit. He'll eventually overtake Brian Dawkins as the top FS in the league.|
· Why do people think Brian Griese will be the starter in Miami? Jay Fiedler to me is the inspirational leader of the offense. Besides, the last thing the Fins need is having two head-cases on offense (Ricky Williams being the other).
Unless rookie Ike Taylor works out beyond anyone's reasonable
expectations, and/or the Steelers sign a bargain veteran, cornerback depth will
be very thin. There's a big drop-off between Deshea Townsend and Hank Poteat.
The signing of Troy Polamulu does nothing to address the lack of
depth in the linebacking unit, meaning John Fiala might see another year in
Pittsburgh. Based on early (and I repeat early) reports, Alonzo Jackson won't
be helpful this season.
You'd think by now that professional athletes would realize that
those who drink, drive, and have a loaded weapon in a car late at night
(regardless of having a license for the weapon) are just asking for trouble.