The 2018 NFL Draft — especially the first round — had brought a lot of heartache to Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
Leading up to that day, many thought that if Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates were still on the board when the Steelers picked, he would be the next safety to join the rebuilt defense. Instead, as we all know, the Steelers went with Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds, which ultimately led to Bates landing within the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Three years later, Bates looks like a true building block on the back-half and is poised for a big contract following the completion of his rookie deal after the 2021 season.
Fortunately for the Steelers, they were able to trade for fellow 2018 safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to pair with Edmunds, but dealing with Bates twice a year is frustrating for Steelers’ fans, and will continue to be frustrating should Bates get his way and stay in Cincinnati long term.
“Obviously, I feel like I’m a core piece in Cincinnati,” Bates said, via Laurel Pfahler of the Dayton Daily News. “My family is three hours away, so I would love to be here. My main goal is to take that next level that I keep saying as a leader on this team. The money part of it will come. I just want to win. That’s all I care about is winning. The money part of it will come. Not just for me, but for everybody in this program.”
In three seasons as a starter, Bates has started all 48 games the Bengals have played and he’s posted more than 100 tackles each season. He’s also had nine interceptions, becoming one of the top safeties in football, ranking No. 8 at safety in Pro Football Focus’s safety rankings ahead of the 2021 season, despite being the highest graded safety during the 2020 season.
Should the Bengals figure it out again and become real contenders under head coach Zac Taylor, Bates will be a massive part of that, leading a rebuilt Bengals’ defense to prominence while garnering All-Pro and Pro Bowl attention in the NFL.