2020 Offseason Questions: Who Is Best Edge Defender In AFC North?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Who is the best edge defender in the AFC North?

Note: for simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to use images of Steelers for the cover photos of these articles. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m arguing they’re the best.

Yeah, so I think I can safely predict the winner here before I even get started. Everybody is going to pick T.J. Watt. After all, he was one of the runners-up for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He has produced 14 forced fumbles over the past two seasons, along with 27.5 sacks and a couple of interceptions to boot.

Okay, so…who is the second-best edge defender in the AFC North, after Watt? Could it be Bud Dupree? He had his best season last year after four years. But so did Matt Judon of the Baltimore Ravens, and he ended up going to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

Then there’s a certain somebody named Myles Garrett. Say what you will about him, but he’s a stud on the field and was tracking toward All-Pro status in 2019 before he was suspended for the final six games of the year for what he did to Mason Rudolph. I think it’s clear that he and Watt are the top two in the division.

The Cincinnati Bengals have Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard, two solid players, but neither of whom I would really put in this discussion, especially with Dunlap arguably being a bit past his prime at this point. The Browns also have Olivier Vernon, but the next time he has a healthy season will be his first.

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