The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which Steeler is most likely to reach the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2019?
While the 2018 season is still going on, there are just two teams left participating, so most of the NFL is already in the midst of offseason most. Still, several dozens of players will be gathering in Orlando to participate in one last game before the Super Bowl, the exhibition scrimmage known as the Pro Bowl.
This season, eight Steelers have made it to the honor, though only six will be participating. Wide receiver Antonio Brown and guard David DeCastro backed out citing injuries. Presumably the rest, however, will be there, namely Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Heyward, and T.J. Watt. I don’t believe any team is sending a larger contingent.
Of course there’s always room for more, and frankly the Steelers had more a year ago, with 10 players in total being recognized as Pro Bowlers from their 2017 squad. This year’s group includes three players making it for the first time, so if there is another first-timer in 2019, who is it most likely to be?
A popular answer will likely be Stephon Tuitt, but here’s the thing: Heyward only made it outright this season because the Steelers changed his official designation from end to tackle, so he wasn’t being compared to edge defenders. Unless the Steelers do the same for Tuitt, he’s going to have as hard a time making a Pro Bowl as every other end in their 3-4 history. But maybe Javon Hargrave could be that player—if he gets enough playing time, which I wouldn’t bet on.
If Marcus Gilbert is still on the roster and healthy, then he is always a threat to join the Steelers’ o-line Pro Bowl club, but that’s up in the air right now. Here’s an interesting suggestion though: Terrell Edmunds. He has the physical tools that you want and now he has a year of trial by fire under his belt. He progressed throughout the season and flashed the potential for some playmaking ability. We don’t know what he can be yet, but he might have the most upside.