The Steelers had three players labeled in the top 100 of the league heading into the 2020 season. Here’s where they showed up on NFL Network’s Top 100 list.
The NFL Network recently concluded their NFL Top 100 list of players entering the 2020 season, and fans from all teams are once again up in arms. The Steelers seemed to be a team that was once again disrespected on the list.
Despite their impressive resumes, players like Ben Roethlisberger and David DeCastro fell short of making the list this year. For the players who did, many believe their rankings weren’t an accurate representation of how they played last year.
The first Steeler to show up on the list was Cameron Heyward. Though Heyward had a relatively slow start to his career as a former first-round draft choice, his last three seasons have been the best of his career, as he earned 3 straight Pro Bowls and first-team All-Pro honors twice. Last year, Heyward and Aaron Donald were the only two defenders to earn this honor.
But despite his dominance as of late, the rest of the NFL apparently hasn’t caught up to how good he is. Heyward slotted in at 84th on the list – slightly improving on his ranking of 88th from 2019. It was Heyward’s fourth time making the NFL Top 100 list, and it may not be his last.
The next Steelers star to show up on the list was Minkah Fitzpatrick. This was the young safety’s first time making the list after a dominant All-Pro showing in 2019. Though it’s not surprising to see him earn this honor as a former 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, how fast he rose to stardom was impressive.
Minkah had a solid season as a rookie for the Dolphins in 2018, but his second-year leap on the Steelers was monumental. He took the ball away a whopping 8 times last season (5 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) in addition to scoring 2 defensive touchdowns. Perhaps his most impressive statistic, however, was allowing just a 46.3 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Reference.
Despite having his name thrown into the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year last season, Fitzpatrick was given just the 35th spot on the list. Still, this is quite impressive for a 23-year old safety in his second season.
The final Steeler to show up on the list was All-Pro pass rusher, T.J. Watt. Watt was a legitimate Defensive Player of the year Candidate last season after earning 14.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, 14 tackles for a loss, 36 quarterback hits, and leading the league in pressures, according to Pro Football Reference.
Watt was thoroughly impressive after taking yet another leap forward in play last season – so much so that slotting in at 25th on NFL Network’s Top 100 list hardly seems high enough. The young defensive star is currently the single-most valuable asset on the roster and will be a cornerstone to their defense for years to come.
Take the NFL Top 100 list with a grain of salt, as their rankings are typically far from an accurate representation where players should be ranked in real life. Still, it’s nice to know that the Steelers have three legitimate defenders and it will be exciting to continue to watch them work.