QB Ben Roethlisberger has had a productive first half of the season to lead the Steelers to a 5-3 record. (US Presswire)

The Steelers were two different teams in the first half of 2012. They started out not being able to win against lowly Oakland or Tennessee. They reached the midway point Sunday by vanquishing the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on their home field, amid an emotional post-Sandy time. Here are our midseason awards along with a projection of where we think the Steelers (5-3) will end up at the end of the season:

Offensive MVP -- QB Ben Roethlisberger: He doesn’t have all his projected starters healthy or functioning fully around him yet. Nevertheless, Roethlisberger is enjoying one of his most productive half-seasons to date. He is on pace to compile his most yards and touchdowns, his highest completion percentage, and his fewest interceptions in his nine-year career.

Defensive MVP -- LB Larry Foote and S Ryan Clark, tie: Both equally deserve honors. Foote replaced the retired longtime captain James Farrior and shored up a defense that was leaky through mid-October. Clark has dazzled all the while, playing just 19 snaps with his cohort and perennial Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu.

Rookie MVP -- P Drew ButlerIt’s still early, and there’s no guarantee he’ll wind up winning the team’s Joe Greene award for rookie of the year. It could ultimately go to OT Mike Adams if he keeps starting or RB Chris Rainey or some other rookie yet to play (see next item). But Butler has averaged 43.5 yards per punt, dropped 13 of 27 inside the 20 and banged five of 50-plus.

Top assistant coach -- Todd Haley: The new offensive coordinator worked wonders with an offense that was comfortable under the previous regime -- particularly Roethlisberger. And Haley had star running back Rashard Mendenhall for only one full game and rookie guard David DeCastro, slated to start, for none. Sure, predecessor Bruce Arians has done all right in Indianapolis.

Biggest disappointment -- Defensive ends: Perhaps they all pale after the retirement of the steady Aaron Smith, but captain Brett Keisel plus Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward have done little more than offer negligible pass rush and play mediocre against the run. It isn’t all their fault, but blemishes look a lot uglier when the fellows up front fail to make the rest of the unit look better.

Biggest strength -- As odd as it is to say, the Steelers are an offensive team. They rallied to beat the defending Super Bowl champions without three starters: running back Rashard Mendenhall, Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Biggest weakness -- James Harrison cannot apply the leverage he once could, and his bookend outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has been inconsistent applying pressure. Without them and some surge from the defensive line, non-existent through the first six weeks, the Steelers’ defense is greatly susceptible.

Projected final record -- 11-5

Playoffs? After an 0-3 road start and a rare 2-3 start overall, the Steelers’ season looked bleak. Now they’re in position to go far into the playoffs -- until they run into the Texans or Patriots.

One fact you may not know but should know: The Steelers have protected fourth-quarter leads their past three games, all victories, after frittering away three in their opening five games.

Follow Steelers reporter Chuck Finder on Twitter @CBSSteelers and @cfinder.

Want to know who CBSSports.com says the MVP is? Check out our Midseason Awards.