Steelers have two players on PFF's Top 32 edge defender list for 2023

We know who the two players are, but where did they land in the EDGE rankings?

T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

This is the time of year when positional rankings start to hog the news cycle in the NFL. With just a few weeks remaining until training camps begin, the excitement of the upcoming season is starting to ramp back up again. Pittsburgh Steelers fans have plenty to be excited about in 2023.

Recently, ESPN released their edge rusher rankings that were comprised of a panel of NFL executives, coaches, and players. T.J. Watt made the list as the 4th-best EDGE. Now Pro Football Focus is doing the same; however, they are ranking the top 32 players at the edge defender position. Two Steelers players made the cut.

Without explanation, you already know who those players were: T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. The question then becomes: where did they land in the rankings?

Where did Steelers players fall on EDGE rankings?

Trevor Sikkema of PFF broke down the best NFL edge defenders into five tiers. Watt was, of course, in Tier 1 -- though he was not the top name on the list. Among the 6 Tier 1 edge defenders listed, Watt ranked 4th overall. The former DPOY came in behind players like Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, and Nick Bosa.

Unsurprisingly, these were the same three edge rushers listed ahead of Watt in ESPN's rankings as well. The drop from the top of the list to 4th no doubt speaks to Watt's inability to stay healthy, and it's reasonable to think that he could be in contention for the number one spot again if he can avoid the injury bug in 2023.

Alex Highsmith was the 32nd and final name mentioned on the list in Tier 5 of PFF's edge defender rankings. He came in below players like Sam Hubbard, Josh Sweat, Greg Rousseau, Brandon Graham, and Cameron Jordan. Obviously, there's lots of room for debate here in these rankings.

Steelers fans will be quick to point out that Highsmith was one of the more productive edge rushers in the league last year -- tallying 14.5 sacks and leading the league with 5 forced fumbles. While both of these numbers topped what Micah Parsons was able to do, the evaluation process stretches far beyond raw statistics.

Highsmith is a high-end EDGE2 in the NFL, but he's not a player who has shown that he can create and dominate on his own (a la T.J. Watt). Highsmith was a bit inconsistent in terms of his pass rush win rate and had some trouble getting after the quarterback when Watt was unavailable.

Still, cracking the list is quite an impressive feat from the former college walk-on, and there are multiple teams that don't even have a representative on the Top 32 edge defenders list. Highsmith is just entering the prime of his career, and there's no reason to expect him to be worse in 2023.

The Pittsburgh Steelers really do have a dynamic duo of edge rushers that could help put their defense back on the map as one of the best units in the league. Obviously, this will require good health from T.J. Watt, but a return to defensive dominance is not out of the question.