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CBS Sports Ranks T.J. Watt & Cam Heyward #5 NFL’s Top 10 Duos

Recently Jared Dublin of CBS Sports published a Top 10 List of the NFL’s best duos, highlighting player or coach pairings that make up some of the best units in all of football. Examples like Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase of the Bengals made the list as well as Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs of the Bills. Dublin managed to fit two Pittsburgh Steelers on his list, putting the dynamic duo of OLB T.J. Watt and DL Cam Heyward at #5 stating the following:

“The backbone of one of the NFL’s best defenses over the past several years, this duo has combined to total 115 sacks over the past five seasons — an average of 23 per year. Watt had nearly that many himself last season, with a record-tying 22.5 of them. He’s led the NFL in quarterback takedowns and tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons and just won his first Defensive Player of the Year award. Heyward is the unsung hero of Pittsburgh’s defense, playing every spot along the interior of the defensive line, pushing pockets, and getting after the quarterback.”

While Pittsburgh did struggle mightily against the run in 2021, Dublin would be right in saying that the defense, more specifically the defensive front, has been impressive at getting to the quarterback. Watt and Heyward lead the charge on a defensive unit that has led the league in sacks every season since 2017, speaking to their ability to effectively get after the passer. Watt tallied a remarkable 41% of the Steelers’ sacks last year, tying Michael Strahan’s all-time sack record which rightfully earned him Defensive Player of the Year honors, which were frankly overdue. Heyward represented himself well also in the sack department, notching ten sacks himself from the interior DL spot, the second time in his career with double-digit sacks.

In fact, CBS Sports recognized Watt and Heyward as the best duo on the team in an earlier article highlighted by Steelers Depot’s very own Josh Carney. The ranking of #5 overall puts Watt and Heyward as the second-best defensive duo on the list, only behind the Los Angeles Rams duo of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Watt and Heyward rank above notable duos like Burrow and Chase, Tom Brady and Mike Evans, Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler, and Kyle Shanahan and Deebo Samuel.

While Watt and Heyward are getting the credit they rightfully deserve from the national media ahead of the 2022 season, they will be asked to shoulder more in terms of leadership and being the faces of the franchise now that Ben Roethlisberger has retired. They will have to continue making a profound impact rushing the passer to get Pittsburgh in-position to lead the league in sacks for a remarkable sixth year in a row. On top of that, Heyward and Watt will be entrusted to lead a defense that was historically bad against the run last season back onto the field in 2022, getting the unit back to playing patented Pittsburgh Steelers defense like we have seen in decades past.

It’s a lot of pressure to come out and produce, but Watt and Heyward are up for the task, being the most accomplished players on the current roster. Along with serving as mentors and teachers to the younger guys on the team, they will be expected to lead by example and keep up that high level of play Dublin refers to as his criteria why they made his list:

“[Heyward] made five consecutive Pro Bowls while Watt has made four in a row, and two appearances on the All-Pro first team in the last three seasons while Watt has made three in a row. You won’t find a better duo along the defensive front.”

What are your thoughts on the Watt/Heyward duo for the Steelers? Do you think they deserve to be a top five duo in the NFL? What makes them so special and what can they do going forward to put the team in better position to be a playoff contender? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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