PITTSBURGH— The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed six players on the 2005 Pro Bowl team announced today by the NFL.
It is the most Steelers players selected to the All-Star game since 2002 (the 2001 season). The Pro Bowl will be played Feb. 13, 2005 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
Steelers earning Pro Bowl recognition are: offensive guard Alan Faneca, inside linebacker James Farrior, center Jeff Hartings, safety Troy Polamalu, outside linebacker Joey Porter and wide receiver Hines Ward.
The Pro Bowl squads were selected by a combined voting of fans, players and coaches. ABC Sports will announce starting lineups for the Pro Bowl at halftime of the nationally televised Wild Card games Jan. 8.
Faneca and Ward have earned their fourth consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl, while Porter earned his second Pro Bowl bid after missing the team last year. Farrior, Hartings and Polamalu all are first-time selections.
The Steelers’ 1998 number-one draft pick, Faneca has established himself as arguably the best guard in the NFL. He played all 14 games so far this season at his familiar left guard position after bouncing from guard to tackle in 2003 because of injuries along the offensive line. Faneca’s outstanding blocking has helped the running game improve from 31st in the league in 2003 to third in the NFL in 2004.
Ward is producing another outstanding season and is on the verge of surpassing 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth consecutive year, becoming the first receiver in Steelers history to achieve that distinction. After 14 games, Ward has a team-high 75 catches for 972 yards and four TDs.
Porter has rebounded from his 2003 season in which he had to recover from a gunshot wound received a week before the season to earn his second Pro Bowl selection. After 14 games, Porter, a defensive co-captain, currently has 58 total tackles (41 solos) and is second on the team with seven sacks.
A defensive co-captain, Farrior is having the finest season of his eight-year career. He leads the Steelers with 108 tackles (72 solo), five forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles. Farrior has a career-high four interceptions this season, tying him for the most by a linebacker in the NFL, including one that he returned for a touchdown in Week 11 at Cincinnati — his first career touchdown. He also has recorded four quarterback sacks this year.
Hartings, who has been named a first alternate four times in the past five years, earns his first trip to Honolulu. He has been an integral part of the Steelers offensive line that has helped propel the team’s running game from 31st in the league in 2003 to third so far this year.
In his first year as a starter, Polamalu, the 2003 number-one draft pick, has emerged as one of the top safeties in the NFL. He leads all Steelers and is tied for fourth in the AFC with five interceptions, and ranks third on the team with 91 tackles (62 solo). Polamalu returned an interception for a touchdown in Week 4 against Cincinnati.
In addition, six Steelers have been selected as alternates to the squad. Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, defensive end Aaron Smith, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El as kick return specialist, offensive tackle Marvel Smith, punter Chris Gardocki and fullback Dan Kreider.
My guess is Alan Faneca will be named a starter when they make the announcement during Wild Card week. Not sure about who else. Porter possibly. Farrior certainly deserves it. But since it'll be a base 4-3, he may get the joust. But nobody has played better in the middle this year in the NFL.