While it is not as universally recognized and regarded as the All-Pro lists published by the Associated Press, there are other outlets who similarly post an All-Pro list every season for the NFL, arguably the most prestigious of those secondary venues being that produced by the PFWA, or the Pro Football Writers of America.
In contrast to the AP’s list, the PFWA does not elect a second team, so only a ‘starting’ lineup is actually named, making it somewhat more exclusive in that regard. But they also select all-conference teams for both the NFC and the AFC, which essentially functions as a second-team unit.
It should not be a surprise that the three defenders from the Pittsburgh Steelers who were selected first-team All-Pro by the AP were also named All-Pros on the PFWA, those being defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Heyward is a two-time first-team All-Pro by the AP, but Watt and Fitzpatrick both made it for the first time. This is the first time the PFWA selected Heyward, however. When he made the AP list in 2017, the PFWA opted for Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox over him. He was not on either list—even on the second team—in 2018.
Naturally, all three players who were on the PFWA’s all-NFL All-Pro list were also on the all-AFC list, but they were also joined by Diontae Johnson there as the punt returner. Johnson was also named a second-team All-Pro as a returner by the AP, so that matches.
The accolades are certainly nice for the players, and they no doubt appreciate it, but nevertheless it must feel somewhat hollow to be receiving these awards while watching the playoffs from your own couch because the Steelers did not advance beyond the regular season.
There is still news of one more honor awaiting. Watt is presumed to be one of the leading candidates to be named the Defensive Player of the Year, which will not be revealed yet for a couple of weeks still. Should he win the award, he will be the seventh Steelers, on the eighth occasion, to win the award.
Previous winners include Joe Greene, who won it twice, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Rod Woodson, James Harrison, and Polamalu. The latter two are, of course, the most recent winners, Harrison winning in 2008 and Polamalu in 2010. The Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl in both years.
The Steelers actually won four of the first six ever AP Defensive Player of the Year awards, which began in 1971. Greene won it in 1972, and then Greene, Blount, and Lambert won it in consecutive seasons from 1974 through 1976.