You can almost taste fall in the air at this point, which means we’re so excruciatingly close to the start of the 2020 NFL season, providing us some normalcy in an abnormal year.
With that, we move closer to the conclusion of my Ranking the Steelers’ Starters series here at Steelers Depot. Today, I’ll take a look at No. 6 to No. 4.
To catch you up on the list so far, here’s the latest piece, which ranked the starters No. 9 to No. 7.
Just a reminder of how the series has gone so far:
No. 24 – Jordan Berry, P
No. 23 – Chukwuma Okorafor, RT
No. 22 – Terrell Edmunds, S
No. 21 – James Washington, WR
No. 20 – Vince Williams, LB
No. 19 – Chris Boswell, K
No. 18 – Mike Hilton, CB
No. 17 – Eric Ebron, TE
No. 16 – Alejandro Villanueva, LT
No. 15 – Matt Feiler, LG
No. 14 – Devin Bush, ILB
No. 13 – Diontae Johnson, WR
No. 12– Maurkice Pouncey, C
No. 11 – James Conner, RB
No. 10 – Stephon Tuitt, DE
No. 9 – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
No. 8 – Bud Dupree, OLB
No. 7 – Steven Nelson, CB
No. 6 — Joe Haden, CB
Haden was a Browns castoff who was thought to be at the end of his career. Instead, Haden has elevated his game to another level, pairing with Steven Nelson to be arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league.
Haden still drops his fair share of interceptions, but he’s a shutdown corner who is a vital part of the Steelers’ elite-level defense with high hopes for 2020. Coming off of a Pro Bowl season, there’s no telling what’s next for the veteran defensive back.
No. 5 — Ben Roethlisberger, QB
This could seem a bit low to a handful of fans, but let’s keep in mind the 38-year-old signal caller is coming off major elbow surgery. While I fully believe he’s going to be just fine, it’s fair to drop him slightly due to his injury history and age.
All that said, if he puts up the type of year I’m expecting, Roethlisberger should push higher on this list.
No. 4 — Minkah Fitzpatrick, S
I don’t think anyone would be telling the truth if they said they expected Fitzpatrick to become an All-Pro safety and arguably one of the best in the game after coming over from Miami in a trade shortly after the injury news to Roethlisberger.
Yet that’s just what Fitzpatrick did, helping turn the Steelers into arguably the best defense in the game, helping Pittsburgh stay in a number of close games thanks to its defense, which included two return touchdowns from Minkah.
Teams stopped throwing in Minkah’s direction late in the year, but they won’t really have much of a choice this year with every defensive back returning for an elite defense. He might be even better in 2020.
Last season’s No. 6-4 ranking:
No. 6 – Joe Haden, CB
No. 5 – TJ Watt, OLB
No. 4 – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR