The argument for where the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive trio should rank is pretty easy. Definitely in the top three and even without sounding homerish, they really should be at number one. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown. What else do you need to say?
But the defensive trio? It’s a little trickier.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell set out to rank the entire league’s defensive top three players. For Pittsburgh, he chose Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier, and Lawrence Timmons, and that group ranked 22nd. From his article.
“While few could question the Steelers’ offensive triplets standing at the top of the NFL leaderboard, their defensive triplets don’t reach the same heights. They have a pair of effective inside linebackers in Timmons and Shazier, and Heyward had his best professional season after signing a lucrative contract extension in July…but this is still a top-heavy defense without a truly dominant player.”
Obviously, I haven’t gone through a list of my own. This might seem a tad low to most fans, Heyward is a star, Shazier is budding, and Timmons is as steady as they come, but not a wholly disagreeable. If Shazier stays healthy and plays the way he’s flashed, the Steelers should rank higher in next summer’s pass-the-time lists.
I gotta admit I expected to see William Gay or Mike Mitchell on this list instead of say, Timmons, but again, that disagreement isn’t a major one.
In the North, the Cleveland Browns came in dead last with their three of Joe Haden, Desmond Bryant, and Paul Kruger. The Baltimore Ravens eked out just ahead of Pittsburgh, ranking 21st with Brandon Williams, C.J. Mosley, and Eric Weddle. The Cincinnati Bengals led the group, coming in 13th with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and George Iloka.
Not surprisingly, the Seattle Seahawks came in at the top of the list. Their three included Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Michael Bennett.
Naturally, constructing a league-wide list is difficult to accomplish. Most people, even those who write for a living (myself included), don’t know the intricate makeups of these rosters and players to accurately rank them. For example, Barnwell included Arthur Jones for the Indianapolis Colts, something that drew the ire of fans.