Steelers have underwhelming representation on PFF's Top 101 players list of 2023

Only two Steelers cracked PFF's Top 101 list; Let's pray this team will have more representation in 2024.

Arizona Cardinals v Pittsburgh Steelers
Arizona Cardinals v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus recently released his list of the top 101 players from the 2023 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers had just two representatives on the list (and you can probably guess who they are).

In this annual article, Monson ranks the best players in the league solely on their play from the 2023 season -- meaning none of what these players did prior to 2023 is considered. Monson also doesn't factor in positional value; rather, he approaches it as if all positions hold equal value.

The two Steelers to crack the list were starting edge defenders, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. This dynamic duo proved to be one of the most imposing pair of pass rushers in the league last season.

Starting with player No. 101 and counting down to the No. 1 player from 2023, the first Steeler to show up was Highsmith. He claims the spot as the 52nd-best player from the 2023 season. Here's what Monson had to say:

With all of the focus on T.J. Watt and his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy, it was easy to overlook that Alex Highsmith on the other side of the line came close to matching his production. He racked up 72 total pressures on the season and made several huge plays, including two forced fumbles and two interceptions."

Sam Monson, via Pro Football Focus

There's no doubt that Highsmith was deserving of making PFF's top 101 list. Despite a sack total (7.0) that was cut in half from the previous season, Highsmith was a better and more consistent player on film. The edge defender generated consistent pressure while showcasing the ability to make plays against the run and operate well in space.

Highsmith comes in just above Ravens DT Justin Madubuike and one spot below Saints LB Demario Davis. The Steelers star was just three spots short of topping future Hall of Fame tight end, Travis Kelce.

After Highsmith, you have to scroll for a while to get to the only other Steelers player on the list. According to Monson's rankings, T.J. Watt is the 12th-best player from the 2023 season. Monson spoke highly of Watt's impact this past season.

Watt is unquestionably one of the best impact playmakers in the league on defense, and somebody with a knack for the big plays relative to the volume of positive plays he brings to the table. He once again led the league in sacks, even when giving other players the benefit of postseason play to try and catch up. He also notched four forced fumbles and even an interception."

Sam Monson, via Pro Football Focus

Watt earned First-Team All-Pro honors from his performance during the 2023 season, but many Steelers fans are still salty that he wasn't named as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Not everyone is going to be satisfied with Watt's placement in PFF's rankings. One spot ahead of him on the list is fellow edge rusher, Maxx Crosby. The talented pass rusher had an outstanding season for the Raiders in 2023.

Jumping near the top of the list, Nick Bosa came in as the No. 6 player, while Micah Parsons claimed the No. 3 spot. The top spot on PFF's Top 101 was given to none other than Browns All-Pro edge defender, Myles Garrett. After another strong season in 2023, Garrett earned his first Defensive Player of the Year honors.

We aren't used to seeing the Steelers with this little representation on a list that includes 101 of the NFL's best players. Not that long ago, this list would have been crowded with names like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, and David DeCastro.

Even in recent years, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick were shoo-ins to crack the list. Significant injuries didn't help their cause in 2023, and we hope they can return to form in 2024. For those Steelers who were left off the list this year, perhaps they could use this as fuel for the upcoming season.