For the first time since 2000, when both Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott managed the feat, the Pittsburgh Steelers fielded a defense last season nearly two decades later in which they had multiple defenders record at least five interceptions in the same year. Both safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Joe Haden hit exactly that number, and ended up in the Pro Bowl for it.
Troy Polamalu had been the only player between Scott’s five in 2001 and this past season to record at least that many for the Steelers, having down so three times, including seven during the 2010 season, for which the was named the Defensive Player of the Year.
In spite of the fact that it has proven to be a rather rare feat for Pittsburgh, both Fitzpatrick and Haden have set their heights even higher this year. Earlier in training camp, Fitzpatrick told fans during a Steelers Nation Unite question and answer session that he was aiming for six or seven interceptions in 2020.
Haden wasn’t so modest. He was looking for eight this season, reasoning that, while he had five in 2019, he felt as though he dropped another four. Giving him a little bit of wiggle room, he feels that he can get to eight. “I am expecting to get eight“, he told SNU. “I had five last year. I easily could have had nine. I dropped four picks. Embarrassing. My goal this year is to have at least eight picks”.
His five interceptions recorded last season are the most that he has had in his three years in Pittsburgh, and the second-most he has had in his career, the most since his rookie season in 2010 with the Cleveland Browns when he recorded six picks. He also recorded four interceptions in 2013, named to the Pro Bowl for the first time that season.
As a team, the Steelers recorded 20 interceptions in 2019, with Fitzpatrick and Haden accounting for half of them. Linebackers T.J. Watt and Devin Bush also added two apiece, while Mike Hilton, Mark Barron, Kameron Kelly, Steven Nelson, Cameron Sutton…and running back Trey Edmunds on special teams contributed one each. I wouldn’t count on Trey getting another this year, but perhaps Terrell can get one or two.
In case you’re wondering, the last time a Steeler recorded at least eight interceptions in a season was in 1993 when a 28-year-old Rod Woodson managed the feat. When he did it, it had been nearly two decades since it had been done before, when Mel Blount set a team record with his 11 interceptions in 1975. Mike Wagner also had eight in 1973.
But it’s been 26 years since a Steelers player last picked off eight passes in a single season. That’s a long stretch, and in fact nobody in the NFL has done it in the past two seasons. Kevin Byard and Darius Slay are the two most recent to have achieved it in 2017.