The offseason is synonymous with lists that come in all shapes and sizes and that address a wide variety of topics. They have their use in generating discussion—usually fans of opposing teams calling each other names—but ultimately don’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Still, our website is more than just an outlet for news and analysis regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s also a community of Steelers fans that has been built up over the past decade or so, which is why we do bring up topics like these, to submit them to the community for discussion.
Today’s definitely very exciting list comes courtesy of Gregg Rosenthal for the NFL Network’s website, ranking the top defensive lines in the NFL. Inexplicably, he limits his list to eight teams without offering any indication as to why, but perhaps its purpose is to reflect the top quarter of the league, since there are 32 teams.
The Steelers were not one of those teams, but were among the four teams listed that “just missed” the cut, the others being the Green Bay Packers, the Oakland Raiders, and the Tennessee Titans. The three top-ranked defensive lines were the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Los Angeles Rams.
I don’t think there will be a lot of disputing over the top three teams, but the rest of the top eight was rounded out with the Minnesota Vikings, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Houston Texans, the Denver Broncos, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So, community: does Rosenthal have it right to leave the Steelers outside of the top eight? Are the Buccaneers’ additions of Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry this offseason and the Broncos’ drafting of Bradley Chubb enough to keep them ahead of the Steelers, who had a first-team All-Pro defensive end in 2018?
That would be Cameron Heyward, of course, who had his best season yet—as a pass-rusher anyway—with a career-high 12 sacks. He is just the second defensive lineman in team history to record double-digit sacks in a season, doing so in 15 games, since he was rested in the finale.
Pittsburgh’s front is rounded out by Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, T.J. Watt, and Bud Dupree (outside linebackers were included in the discussion for 3-4 teams). Certainly this is a group that still has a lot to prove, but how far behind are they in comparison to their peers?
Are they even the best defensive line in their division? The article makes no mention of the Cincinnati Bengals with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap or the Baltimore Ravens with Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, and Terrell Suggs.