For the second time in as many years, the Pittsburgh Steelers sent the most representatives to the Pro Bowl for the 2018 season. By virtue of two additional players being added to the Pro Bowl roster as alternates for injury or Super Bowl participation, Pittsburgh wound up with eight Pro Bowlers after having 10 the previous year.
But those numbers remain heavily slanted toward the offense. The Steelers had seven offensive Pro Bowlers in 2017, and have six this time around. From the defensive side of the ball, only Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt, the latter as an alternate, were named to the roster.
Heyward earned his first Pro Bowl in 2017, but had to do so as an alternate. He was joined nominally by Ryan Shazier, who like Heyward was an alternate the previous season in 2016 before earning the spot outright a year later. But I’m sure you understand why he did not participate in that game.
Heyward appreciates the honor of the Pro Bowl and doesn’t seem likely to be the one willing to pass up the opportunity unless he was playing in the Pro Bowl or legitimately injured. But he wants more company on the defensive side of the ball going forward.
“It’s pretty awesome to be out here again. I remember being here last year thinking it would be nice to have one of my teammates here”, he said at the Pro Bowl yesterday for the team’s website. “I got one [now]. I’m excited for him, he deserves it. And we just want to get more guys here. It’s great to see a lot of guys on different teams, but I want more Steelers players here”.
While the Steelers do have some talented players on defense, it’s hard to clearly project any of them immediately who are capable of making the jump to a Pro Bowler in the near future, with perhaps the safest gamble being cornerback Joe Haden, who has previously made Super Bowls earlier in his career.
As I talked about recently, Stephon Tuitt would be a popular answer, but he has the same issue as Heyward had prior to this season. Being officially designated as a defensive end, he is compared to 4-3 defensive ends. The Steelers changed Heyward’s designation to defensive tackle for 2018, which made it easier for him to make the Pro Bowl. Javon Hargrave has the potential to make it as an interior defender, but he would need the playing time.
I also suggested that 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds could have a future in the Pro Bowl. He was a starter pretty much all season and showed growth throughout the year, even flashing the potential to make plays. If he can actually make a significant second-year jump, perhaps he can join Heyward and Watt in the Pro Bowl in the near future.