The NFL Pro Bowl was once an honorary event that millions of football fans looked forward to each year just before the Super Bowl. In recent years, the Pro Bowl Game lost its luster as players didn't take it seriously and wisely looked to avoid seriously injuring themselves. This eventually resulted in changing the Pro Bowl format to a series of challenges that now conclude with a flag football game.
While overall interest in the Pro Bowl may have decreased, the honor still remains for individual NFL players. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a trio of representatives on the 2024 Pro Bowl roster: T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Miles Killebrew.
In past years, Cameron Heyward was a shoo-in for Pro Bowl recognition. Now a new era of Steelers football is dawning and these three players are next in line to be Pittsburgh's Pro Bowl representatives.
George Pickens, WR
When it comes to George Pickens, the talent is simply undeniable. Pickens can make some of the craziest combatted catches that you will ever see. It's a matter of keeping his head on straight and sharpening his craft. There's still plenty of work to do when it comes to route-running and finding ways to win before the ball is in the air.
Still, Pickens took a big leap forward in his second NFL season -- particularly late in the year when Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback. As a result, Pickens finished the season with 63 catches for 1,140 yards and 5 touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. When he didn't make the Pro Bowl following the 2023 season, Pickens had no issue expressing his frustration on social media.
From Year 1 to Year 2, Pickens increased his yards per game from 47.1 to 67.1. Another jump like this and he could be one of the leading receivers in the league. It's hard to anticipate how much a change to Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator will affect his production, but we expect the talent to win out in the end. Assuming he plays another 17-game season, Pickens could be the next Steelers player to earn Pro Bowl honors.
Joey Porter Jr., CB
It's not often that a Steelers cornerback earns Pro Bowl consideration. Joe Haden was the last Pittsburgh CB to do so, but the Steelers didn't draft him and he only earned Pro Bowl honors once during his five-year tenure with the team. Before Haden, Ike Taylor was the last great Steelers CB, but he never earned a single Pro Bowl in his 12 seasons with the team.
Now Joey Porter Jr. could finally break that cycle. Porter was far from perfect as a rookie in 2023. The long CB was overly physical at times to the point where he was penalized often. However, if he can clean up his game a bit, Porter has the potential to be a perennial NFL Pro Bowler thanks his his lockdown ability.
Based on his play style as a bump-and-run man-coverage cornerback, Porter will probably never come close to leading the league in interceptions, but voters will take into account his ability to lock down opposing number one wide receivers. This is something he should only get better at doing in the coming seasons.
Isaac Seumalo, OG
Isaac Seumalo just turned 30 years old, so his chances to earn Pro Bowl honors are dwindling. It's because of his age and experience in the league that he may get overlooked when it comes to Pro Bowl voting next year. However, Seumalo's improvement from the beginning of 2023 to the end of the season was extremely noticeable, and I don't think many fans realized how good he was playing by the end of the year.
After two really rough games to begin his Steelers career, Seumalo eventually built chemistry with the offensive line and turned things around in a big way. By the final stretch of the season, he was playing at a Pro Bowl level. Since Week 13, Seumalo has been one of the highest-graded offensive guards in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. It's also worth noting that Seumalo didn't allow a single sack on 551 pass-blocking snaps all season.
Even with the rocky start to the year, Seumalo finished as the 12-ranked OG in the NFL during the 2023 season. Isaac Seumalo is now 30 years old, but good offensive linemen can last well into their 30s. If he continues where he left off, Seumalo could be one of the best guards in football next season and he could earn the first Pro Bowl honors of his NFL career.