Over the course of the past two days, Pro Football Focus has begun publishing its list of the top 101 players from the 2019 season, in four installments. Two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary checked in on the lowest quarter of the list, with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick ranking 94 and cornerback Steven Nelson checking in at 86.
The second installment, getting down to 51, was published yesterday, and another member of the Steelers defense checked in, that being defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. The site ranked him the 68th-best player for the 2019 season—just in time for him to cash in during free agency, of course.
An injury to Stephon Tuitt opened the door for nose tackle Javon Hargrave to prove he could be more than just a run-stuffing body on the defensive line in a contract year, and he did exactly that over the season. Hargrave played 225 snaps more than his previous career-high, and he responded by notching more total pressures (49) than his previous two seasons combined (41). He maintained his impressive work against the run but showed that he can be a legitimate force as a pass-rusher and more than just a rotational body, earning the best overall PFF grade of his career in the process (83.4).
Hargrave actually registered more sacks in 2018, with six and a half, than he did in 2019, during which he only recorded four sacks, but as the site indicates, and in no small part due to the fact that he had more opportunities, his overall presence as a pass rusher and creator of pressure reached a new level this past year.
Originally drafted in the third round in 2016, he has been everything he was advertised to be, and certainly worth the ‘risk’ of drafting out of a small school that early in the draft. He personally got the Joe Greene seal of approval, after all.
Hargrave set a new career-high with 60 tackles in 2019, registering seven tackles for loss, with the aforementioned four sacks, plus the second forced fumble of his career, which came on one of his sacks. The fumble was recovered by the defense and returned for a touchdown.
The Steelers already have three defenders in the site’s top 101 players of 2019, and they are sure to have two more in T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, who were rated as two of the best defenders in the entire NFL, both first-team All-Pros and Pro Bowl starters. Chances are they will be in tomorrow’s final installment. I wouldn’t expect to see any offensive players, especially if David DeCastro isn’t on the list yet.