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Watt, Fitzpatrick, Heyward Receive All-Pro Nods From NFL Network

While we still have to wait upon the official unveiling of the All-Pro team, that merely gives outside observers ample opportunity to weigh in on whom they believe should receive the recognition from the Associated Press’ annual award designations. It’s nothing new, of course, but at the very least it’s something that generates discussion.

The latest to take a swing at putting together an All-Pro team comes from the league’s own website, in which Chris Wesseling and Nick Shook take different approaches toward putting together their names, the latter relying upon Next Gen Stats, the former, the old ‘eye test’.

I don’t think it will be much of a spoiler to say that nobody on the Pittsburgh Steelers was represented on the offensive side of the ball. However, three different defensive players were recognized by one or the other, and you of course already know their names. T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, all of whom also were voted into the Pro Bowl.

At the edge rusher position, only Wesseling recognized Watt. Both chose Za’Darius Smith, while Shook chose Robert Quinn over Watt. Neither gave much of an analysis on Watt, the former merely describing him as a DPOY candidate and “the most consistent playmaking force at the position”.

Once again, only Wesseling selected Heyward. Again, both chose Aaron Donald as one of the two interior linemen, but Shook selected Grady Jarrett as his other choice. Wesseling pointed to his nine sacks, six passes defensed, and fewest penalties, in addition to the loss of Stephon Tuitt, in choosing him over Jarrett and Calais Campbell.

Interestingly enough, both of them selected Fitzpatrick. “After he arrived on the scene, the Steelers became one of the most effective big-play defenses, removing the bomb from opposing quarterbacks’ arsenals”, Wesseling wrote. “One of just five players with at least 60 tackles and five interceptions this season, Fitzpatrick has shown the instincts of a born ballhawk, patrolling center field for a defense that pulled off the ultra-rare feat of leading the league in both sacks and takeaways”.

Shook wrote of him, “Fitzpatrick ranked third among all defensive backs with at least 20 targets and 400 coverage snaps in hawk rate at 37.5 percent, had a catch rate below expectation of -10.3 percent, tied for second among all safeties in interceptions with five, allowed an opposing passer rating of 46.7 when targeted and had nine passes defended”. Devin McCourty finished the season with six interceptions.

Of these three, I believe only Watt will make the first-team All-Pro list, but Heyward and Fitzpatrick will be strong candidates to be recognized on the second team. I would be happy to be wrong and see all three on the first team, but it also would not shock me if they don’t make it at all. Others like Campbell and Cameron Jordan and Jarrett, for example, may win out.

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