Defensive end Aaron Smith may go down in history as the most underrated Steeler ever.
He's been a top-notch player and person for the Steelers the last 10 seasons but rarely gets much publicity outside of the Pittsburgh area. He's only made one Pro Bowl in his career.
He's constantly referred to as underrated, but when does saying he's underrated so much reach a point where it's actually giving him his due?
Smith has played only one full season out of the last three, so it's time to crown a new most underrated player for the Steelers.
Here are a few choices:
Ike Taylor, cornerback: Taylor has performed at a high level the last three seasons, but because he fails to intercept passes - eight in seven years - he's rarely mentioned among the best at his position. He's having a Pro Bowl-type season this year but most likely won't even sniff the Pro Bowl.
Jeff Reed, kicker: Reed will be remembered this season for his off-the-field incidents, his missed field goals in Chicago and his poor tackling, but he remains one of the most consistent and clutch kickers in the NFL. He hit all four of his chances Sunday, which is an example of how he is many times taken for granted.
Brett Keisel, defensive end: Keisel has been a big reason why the Steelers defense hasn't slipped much in Smith's absence. Like Smith, he is not going to be recognized as one of the top NFL ends because he plays in a 3-4 defense. If he were a 4-3 end, he potentially could be in the same class as Minnesota's Jared Allen.
Heath Miller, tight end: Steelers fans know how valuable Miller is, but he's never mentioned with other top tight ends like Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. Miller actually could be the best combination blocker-receiver in the league.
Ryan Clark, free safety: The fourth-year Steeler is overshadowed, and rightfully so, by strong safety Troy Polamalu, but he's been a terrific free-agent acquisition. He fits the Steelers defense well but only gets recognition nationally from his bone-crunching hits.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.