The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the playoffs, but are they one of the better teams? They certainly at least appear to fans of the team to have as many warts as anybody else who qualified for the postseason, or at least shortcomings that are equally as likely to send them home early, but they do have some legitimate talent.
That tends to be reflected in the post-season awards. This year, for example, the Steelers had five players named to the Pro Bowl, though one can certainly debate the merits of some of them. Offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro both made it, as they always do when healthy. Also joining them are last year’s defensive repeats in T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
While the official Associated Press All-Pro List has yet to be revealed, Pro Football Focus did put out their own, very unofficial version, and a couple of Steelers names—those listed above—found a home there as well, including the obvious.
As goes without saying, T.J. Watt made the first team as an edge defender, and in fact, he was the only first-teamer the Steelers would have. Sam Monson writes of the fourth-year player, who is a leading candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award:
For the second year in a row, T.J. Watt has been a devastating edge rusher and has a very real Defensive Player of the Year case. With 73 total pressures, only Shaquill Barrett (76) has more among edge rushers, and Watt has hit the quarterback 27 more times between sacks and knockdowns. Watt has the second-best pass-rush win rate (23.7%) among edge rushers, but also has five batted passes and even an interception to his name, dropping under a Daniel Jones quick pass in Week 1 to pick the pass off and cause a turnover.
Heyward also made the list, though he was included as a member of the second team among interior defenders, with of course Aaron Donald on the first team and joined by Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs. DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts was also included.
A perhaps surprise inclusion on the list is Ray-Ray McCloud as a return specialist, making the grade on the second team behind Cordarrelle Patterson of the Chicago Bears. Despite a lofty beginning of the year, McCloud finished the season averaging 23.1 yards per kick return. He also averaged 10.3 yards per punt return, with over 944 total return yards.
Overall, McCloud ranked sixth in kick return yards and eighth in yards per return, and fourth in punt return yards and fourth in punt return yardage. He also finished fourth in the NFL in total return yards