The Steelers were, not too long ago, an old team. This is no longer the case. After years of turnover from the most recent Super Bowl era, here’s a preview of who the next Steelers are to make the Pro Bowl.
Gone are the likes of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller. Long gone are Alan Faneca and and Casey Hampton. Some, line Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison linger, still effectively. But the era of the Steelers most recent Super Bowl run is past. The last appearance was in 2010. This is a new team.
Only three players on the Steelers have 2 Super Bowl rings and that’s Ben, Harrison, and long snapper Greg Warren. But the Steelers don’t seem to be missing that era. They’re still plenty successful and dominant, just most on a different side of the ball.
New Steelers are making appearances in the Pro Bowl, indicating a changing of the guard. The “young money crew” kicked off the new era. Only Antonio Brown remains but he’s made multiple Pro Bowls at this point. But Pouncey arose during this time too starting the multiyear overhaul of the Steelers offensive line
Le’Veon Bell is another great new face. We’re all familiar with him. And David DeCastro joined the ranks of the new Steelers elite by turning his strength and toughness mixed with an awareness and agility in space into his first Pro Bowl birth.
But, who’s next up to make their first Pro Bowl? Here are the most likely contenders.
Nope. Not this year. Not the year before. Cam Heyward has been the leader of the Steelers defense and it’s best player for a couple seasons now. He’s been the foundation on which they rebuilt the team, along with Lawrence Timmons and William Gay.
Cam Heyward is one of the best defensive ends in the league. Last year he had 54 tackles, 15 for loss, 7 sacks, a forced fumble, and two passes defensed. He’s finally starting to get the respect he deserves getting onto NFL.com’s Top 100 Players at 88.
Marcus Gilbert has been step by step, year by year, improving and turning into a great right tackle. For a few years we’ve all shouted futility at other NFL watchers that Kelvin Beachum was one of the greats. He never did get the respect he deserved but oh, hey, here’s this guy on the other side who is doing a great job too.
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Some are starting to take notice. Marcus Gilbert is currently pulling in a 94 rating in Madden. Those are Pro Bowl numbers. That’s higher than All-Pro teammate David DeCastro. Madden is law. We all know that. And when it comes to offensive linemen there’s not a lot of numbers to cite honestly.
If this guy can get 16 games he might make a name for himself. Heck, I’d settle for 12 games at 100%. Shazier has athleticism for days and in the playoffs against Cincinnati he took over the tone of the game with his ferocity. It was the type of performance we’ve not seen since James Harrison. He had a similar performance getting 11 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble against the 49ers.
If you haven’t heard, Ryan Shazier is the fastest player on the team. He recently beat Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Sammie Coates in a foot race. Not surprising considering his sub 4.4 speed, but when taking his position into account it’s a bit more out of the ordinary. The guys an athletic rarity and with enough playing time things will take care of themselves.
Big Stephon Tuitt, what a get that was in the 2nd round. Tuitt and Heyward are turning into two massive bookends on each side of the defensive line squeezing inward with more athleticism than anyone who can be described as a massive bookend has right to have.
In just his second year Tuitt made 54 tackles, 6.5 sacks, a pass defensed and another intercepted. Like several players on this list people his size have no business moving as well as he does, yet he does. This is why NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison placed Tuitt on his All-Under-25 Team.
New guy in town, I know. Never even held the top spot on a depth chart, I know. But he could definitely make the Pro Bowl, you know. Green has athleticism and hands that are rare for a person his size. He can run routes and block. This could easily turn out to be a James Farrior type situation. A rare, strategic, biggish name signing that fits better than you can imagine.
ESPN recently listed 100 predictions for the upcoming NFL season. Jeremy Fowler predicted that Green will be a breakout star. He likely will be, if for no other reason than Ben will be in his glory having that tall red zone target he’s been asking for since Plaxico Burress left town.
I’d be willing to bet there is at least one person who does not recognize this name. Nix does not play a glamorous position. In fact, he doesn’t play a glamorous position twice. Nix is a fullback and a key special teams contributor. Not unlike Antonio Brown, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2011 as a kick returner, this doubles his chances.
And even Nix has made some offseason lists. Bleacher Report did it’s annual NFL 1000 and Matt Miller listed Nix as the 7th best fullback in the NFL. This is a player in his rookie year. This is also a player who did not play fullback in college. He did not even play offense. There’s no way of knowing how good he can get but it’s safe to assume there’s room to grow.