Fans tend to take a sense of ownership over their team, and that extends to key players. There are just some players who would look completely absurd ever wearing the uniform of another team. Just look at Tom Brady wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform. It just looks unnatural. He’s a Patriot.
So were players like Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, and Heath Miller Pittsburgh Steelers. Not every great, even in Pittsburgh, finishes their career here, of course: see Alan Faneca, James Harrison, Rod Woodson, for some of the more prominent examples of somewhat more recent vintage. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell just joined that club.
There are some faces on the roster right now it would be hard to imagine ever seeing in another jersey, though. The first that comes to mind has to be Ben Roethlisberger. After all, he’s been here for 16 years. And I don’t think any fan base would love him as much as Pittsburgh. Cameron Heyward is another.
Gil Brandt recently compiled a list of 12 players that he believes their current team should do everything in their power to not let them get away, and he chose two current members of the Steelers on that list. A couple of caveats: he includes players who were originally acquired via trade; everyone on the list is under 30; and he limited it to one per position to avoid a list of quarterbacks.
Aside from the obvious names like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Donald and George Kittle, two Steelers stand out, and I’m sure you already know who they are: T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, the two first-team All-Pros in Pittsburgh who are under 30. On Watt, he writes:
The Steelers have accumulated the most sacks in the NFL over the past three seasons — and it’s no coincidence that dominant stretch kicked off with the first-round selection of Watt, who owns more than 20 percent of those sacks (34.5 of 162). Watt has formed one of the league’s top pass-rushing duos with Bud Dupree. Though the franchise-tagged Dupree is likely to join the list of Steelers linebackers who ultimately move on from the team, Watt, who is in line for a lucrative extension, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
And on Fitzpatrick:
Many — including myself — second-guessed the Steelers’ decision to send a first-round pick to Miami in exchange for Fitzpatrick early last season, but nobody is questioning the move now. Fitzpatrick demonstrated great positional flexibility and a nose for the football in 2019, racking up five interceptions and two fumble recoveries with the Steelers. Combined with sound tackling and coverage skills, Fitzpatrick was able to provide the kind of impact play at safety that the team has sorely missed since Troy Polamalu’s heyday. It’s exciting to think how much better Fitzpatrick can be in his first full season in this defense after being forced to learn on the fly last year.
While Darius Leonard was chosen for the list to represent the off-ball linebackers, you know that Devin Bush is another name the Steelers hope to never let get away. After all, they did trade up in the first round to get him, ultimately giving up first-, second-, and third-round picks for him.
Outside of those three, I’m not sure I see another player on this roster about whom I can definitively say they can never let this guy go. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a great player, but paying wide receivers is a dicey proposition that really doesn’t translate into Super Bowls any more than paying running backs. Stephon Tuitt would be a name to consider here as well. All the notable linemen are already 30-plus.