More lists? More rankings? What’s that you say? It’s the offseason? But of course it is. And a most unusual one at that, with everybody trying to dig up something to write about. And so we all come up with lists and rankings and countdowns. Pro Football Focus already ran down the best 101 players of the 2019 season, and of the past decade. Now they’re counting down the top 50 players heading into 2020.
Two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers made the list—or at least, I assume only two have made it, because as of the time of this writing, they’ve only gotten down to number 12. I do think it’s safe to assume that no Steelers are in the top 12, however, based on who and where the two Steelers were placed.
First on the list for Pittsburgh was Cameron Heyward, checking in at 40. Even though he was ranked as the second-best interior defender in all of football last season behind only Aaron Donald, he makes it far down the list, below others ranked ahead of him, such as Cameron Jordan, who also made the All-Decade team ahead of him.
Heyward is coming off of another great season, of course, making the Pro Bowl for the third year in a row and being named first-team All-Pro for the second time. He posted by far a career-high 83 tackles, including 11 for a loss, with nine sacks, the second-most in his career, while also adding a noteworthy six batted passes.
The only other Steeler on the list is T.J. Watt, who finished third in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Watt made the list at spot number 28, so in spite of the fact that he was the league’s third-highest-graded defender—behind only Donald and Watt—he doesn’t even crack to top half of the top 50 players.
During the 2019 season, the third-year edge rusher recorded 14.5 sacks while leading the league with eight forced fumbles, recovering four fumbles himself. He also finished the season with 55 tackles and 14 of them going for a loss, with two interceptions and eight passes defensed. Like Heyward, he was a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro.
Not making the list, or so it appears, is once again Minkah Fitzpatrick, the other first-team All-Pro defender for the Steelers last season. Recently, Pete Prisco failed to include him in his top 100 players, and then doubled down on justifying that omission, which will now serve as fuel for the young safety.
While only two Steelers cracked the top 50 this year, they have a number of players who have the potential to emerge as a top-50 candidate in 2020, including a pair of second-year players in Devin Bush and Diontae Johnson. JuJu Smith-Schuster, of course, can have a nice bounceback season for himself and re-establish his credit as a top wide receiver.