To nobody’s great surprise, New England Patriots inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower backed out of the Pro Bowl. He was only voted in once before, and did not have to play because the Patriots were in the Super Bowl that year. I doubt anybody actually expected he would be attending this year, though.
The only real question was who would replace him. We had already known previously, through his mother, that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush was among the alternates for the linebacker position in the Pro Bowl. We didn’t know where. Evidently, it was no better than second-alternate, because Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was named as his replacement.
Edmunds, the youngest brother of three, with the others being Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds and running back Trey Edmunds, is in his second season after both he and Terrell became the first first-round siblings selected in the same year in 2018.
He finished the 2019 season with 115 tackles, including 10 for a loss. He also had one interception, nine passes defensed, and one and a half sacks over 16 games. In comparison, Bush completed his rookie year registering 109 tackles, one sacks, two interceptions, four passes defensed, a forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries.
There are only two inside linebackers who get voted into the Pro Bowl. This year, the other linebacker for the AFC is second-year Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, who was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018. He recorded 121 tackles this past season with seven for a loss, five sacks, five interceptions, seven passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. He was both a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 2018. He is second-team All-Pro in 2019.
And there doesn’t appear to be any likelihood that he would be skipping the Pro Bowl. He played every snap of the Colts’ season finale, and they didn’t even make the playoffs. He is a young guy, so it’s highly unlikely he would find an excuse not to go if he can’t make up an injury. Ordinarily it’s on your third or fourth trip that you might start to get tired of the honor.
The Steelers did have one player this year get into the Pro Bowl as an alternate, as Joe Haden was named to replace Marcus Peters of the Baltimore Ravens. He joins fellow defenders T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fizpatrick, all of whom will attend. Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro were also named to the Pro Bowl but will not attend due to injuries—or ‘injuries’, perhaps, in DeCastro’s case.