For an 8-8 season, the year of 2019 was certainly a memorable one for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans. That applies equally to the actual season and the offseason, during which a number of absurd or out of character events unfolded.
The most significant development of the year, however, was without a doubt the rising stock of the defense as a whole, reinforced this offseason with high-quality talent acquired by a variety of means, whether free agency, the draft, or trade.
The signing of Steven Nelson is one of the most overlooked moves of the entire offseason around the NFL, as far as I’m concerned, but the team also added Mark Barron in free agency, and then got their other starting inside linebacker in Devin Bush by trading up in the draft. The big cherry on the top was the in-season trade for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The former Miami Dolphins first-round pick ended his second season not just in the black and gold, but down in Orlando practicing for the Pro Bowl (he was also named to the first-team All-Pro List, on top of Pro Bowl honors). He spoke to reporters about a variety of topics yesterday, including the state of the defense and what’s to come.
In addition to Fitzpatrick, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker T.J. Watt were also voted into the Pro Bowl. With Marcus Peters backing out due to injury, cornerback Joe Haden was called upon to replace him, so the Steelers have four defenders down there.
They are arguably the four most significant players on the unit, so they’ll have a chance to get there and brainstorm a bit about what’s to come, and Fitzpatrick spoke to that. “We’re gonna do that at some point, just get together, chop it up, hang out, talk about that”, he said.
“Me, Joe, and T.J. are gonna get together and talk, just pick each other’s brains and think about what we can do better as leaders, as teammates, as a defense. Just to improve our season, make the playoffs next year, just continue to grow”.
One can only hope that these same four players will be back voted into the Pro Bowl next year, though ineligible to play due to the fact that the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl. Perhaps others such as Devin Bush and Stephon Tuitt or Bud Dupree will be joining them as well.
Of course, the expectation is that the offensive side of the ball will be much more capable of holding its own weight in comparison to the light lifting that unit was able to manage in 2019 once Ben Roethlisberger went down. With injuries to James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster as well, it was simply not their year. It was awful, in fact, no matter how great the defense can be.