The NFL released its All-Decade team for the 2010s a while ago already at this point, and there were some members of the Pittsburgh Steelers on it, as you would expect, namely Antonio Brown and Maurkice Pouncey. Both were drafted in 2010, so they had the benefit of having the full decade to state their case.
Yesterday, Pro Football Focus began its own project, ranking the 101 best players of the past decade. The site began charting data as of the 2006 season, so the 2010s are the first decade for which they have a complete set of data.
They revealed numbers 101 through 75 yesterday, with the rest following daily in 25-player intervals. Several members of the Steelers were included in the first installment, though, which I’ll discuss below, before you begin debating about how much higher they should have been on the list.
To start off, these are the following members of the Steelers who made their All-Decade Top 101: Cameron Heyward; James Harrison; Le’Veon Bell; and Emmanuel Sanders. Three of them were draft picks from this decade, while Harrison was originally an undrafted free agent selected by them in the early 2000s, though he bounced around, even in NFL Europe, before finally making a 53-man roster.
“Cameron Heyward had a slow start to his career because of the talent and depth the Pittsburgh Steelers had along the defensive line”, Sam Monson points out about the team’s defensive captain, who was ranked…97th on the list.
“When he got a chance to step up and be the guy up front, he took his game to another level and has been one of the best interior players in the game”, he continued, adding, “his best three seasons have come in the past three years”.
Harrison is next on the list, ranked 95th, which is actually impressive considering his best seasons were in the 2000s. “The decade only caught the second half of James Harrison’s incredible career. Yet, even as an aging veteran presence, he seemed to be bulletproof and capable of continuing on forever as an imposing and productive player”, he noted, adding that he even found success in stints with Cincinnati and New England before retiring, calling him “one of the best defenders the league has seen, maybe ever”.
Bell was the Steelers’ second-round pick in 2013, and it wasn’t long before people were starting to talk of him potentially being the best running back in team history. Of course, he would bail on the team after five years.
“His unique style of patient running worked in perfect harmony with the Steelers’ run-blocking to allow him to dominate”, Monson wrote. “His receiving skills are among the best in the league at his position, and at his best, he has been arguably the best back in football”, but he added that we may never see that player again unless the Jets can turn things around.
Sanders had the shortest stint in Pittsburgh, and his greatest success elsewhere. A 2010 third-round pick in the same draft that landed Brown three rounds later, he wouldn’t become a starter until year four as a restricted free agent, before signing a modest contract with the Denver Broncos and becoming a Pro Bowler with Peyton Manning, with Monson noting that even at 32, he continues to make an impact after being traded in-season to the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s hard, frankly, to predict how many more Steelers will be on the list. If Heyward is all the way down at 97, I don’t think any offensive linemen will be there. Ben Roethlisberger and Brown are likely the only two that will make an appearance inside the top 74.