And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the presentation of Pro Football Focus’ own meaningless and unofficial Pro Bowl selections. You might have already guessed that the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite holding an 11-2 record, have not overly populated the list, but they did get two names in there, both on the defensive side of the ball.
Those would be edge rusher T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, both of whom have made the Pro Bowl for at least each of the past two seasons (Heyward has made the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons, while Watt has made it the past two). At least they had plenty of nice things to say about the two Steelers who did make it, from Sam Monson.
“T.J. Watt has been on a quest for Defensive Player of the Year for a couple of seasons now and currently leads all edge rushers with 68 total pressures”, he writes. “He also has a forced fumble and even an interception to his name”.
The other three edge defenders who were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster were Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers, and the other brother, J.J. Watt, of the Houston Texans.
“Heyward may be the best interior lineman in the league not named Aaron Donald, and he has plenty of help around him in Pittsburgh to ensure he can’t be double-teamed to death the way some other players can”, Monson wrote of the veteran Steelers defensive lineman. It is too bad, however, that Stephon Tuitt did not join him.
As for the defensive interior group, the rest of this position for the AFC was rounded out by Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs, DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts, and Jeffery Simmons of the Tennessee Titans—all of them playoff-bound teams, or at least likely.
So who are the most notable names not to make the list? I already mentioned Tuitt, whom I think it can be easily argued is having every bit as good a season as Heyward. Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety was a first-team All-Pro last year and he has numbers this year, but he did not make it at safety.
I don’t think, frankly, that there are really any other players who could make a particularly good case for themselves for inclusion. Ben Roethlisberger has some good numbers, but he is not one of the top three quarterbacks in the AFC. James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster haven’t done enough this year to merit consideration. The same could be said of the entirety of the offensive line.
And yet they’re 11-2, and that’s what matters in the end.