The Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team in the league last season to have three players named to the All-Pro team on the defensive side of the ball, let alone three players named to the first-team group. The Baltimore Ravens had both of their cornerbacks named All-Pros as the extra defensive back in a tie. The New Orleans Saints had Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis. The Minnesota Vikings had Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks. That’s it as far as first-team players go.
Given this fact, it would seem obvious to me that the Steelers would not just be a candidate, but the leading candidate, for any consideration of whom the best ‘defensive triplets’ in the NFL would be. The fact that their All-Pros came one each from every level of the defense seems to make it an even more appropriate moniker.
The Good Morning Football Crew recently weighed the prospect of defensive triplets, with three separate analysts making their choice. Nate Burleson chose the Arizona Cardinals, and included a rookie in his conversation. Kay Adams chose the Baltimore Ravens. Peter Schrager chose the Steelers. And he cited the three players you would think.
“I’m going with T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick”, he said. “You know what T.J. Watt can do, you know what Cam Heyward can do. Minkah, bursting onto the scene last year. Now give him a full offseason in Keith Butler’s defensive scheme with Mike Tomlin in his ear, I’m going with the Steelers”.
For Heyward, the 2019 season was his third time making the Pro Bowl and his second as an All-Pro, both first-team appearances. It was Watt’s second trip to the Pro Bowl, but his first time being recognized as All-Pro, in his third season. Fitzpatrick, in his second season in the NFL, made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro list for the first time each.
The concept of triplets in the NFL has no formal meaning, but it really began to be associated with the Dallas Cowboys in the 90s when they had a quarterback in Troy Aikman, a running back in Emmitt Smith, and a wide receiver in Michael Irvin, all of whom were considered among the best at their position, and all of whom would make the Hall of Fame.
The Steelers for a while had one of the best offensive triplets in Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell. The power of the roster has shifted to the defensive side of the ball in the hands of players like Heyward, Watt, and Fitzpatrick.
One can only hope that a young guy like Devin Bush will fight to get his recognition into that triplet category. After all, outside of Joe Haden, he is the highest-drafted player on the entire roster as a former 10th-overall pick, shared with Tyson Alualu (Roethlisberger and Fitzpatrick were both 11th-overall picks).
— GMFB (@gmfb) August 17, 2020