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Ranking The Steelers’ Starters: No. 3-1

We’ve done it, Steelers fans. We’ve reached the end of one of my bigger offseason series’ here at Steelers Depot.

Today, it’s time to wrap up the Ranking The Steelers’ Starters series with the final three, the best three starters for the Steelers, in my opinion. Each offseason, this series is a blast to compile. I especially appreciate all the feedback on the list. Looking back on recents years, it shows just how much the Steelers have changed year to year on the field.

That’s the nature of this business, as Mike Tomlin often likes to say. That change was no more evident than in this series ahead of the 2022 season.

As a reminder, here’s how I decided who to choose from as “starters” using an 11-personnel offensive set while also having the Steelers in their nickel sub-package defensively.

Let’s dive into the final part of the eight-part series.

Offense
QB — Mitch Trubisky
RB — Najee Harris
WR — George Pickens
WR – Diontae Johnson
WR – Chase Claypool
TE — Pat Freiermuth
LT — Dan Moore Jr.
LG — Kevin Dotson
C — Mason Cole
RG — James Daniels
RT – Chukwuma Okorafor

Defense
DE — Cameron Heyward
DE — Tyson Alualu
OLB — Alex Highsmith
ILB — Devin Bush

ILB — Myles Jack
OLB — TJ Watt
CB — Ahkello Witherspoon
CB — Cameron Sutton

CB – Levi Wallace 
S — Minkah Fitzpatrick
S — Terrell Edmunds

Specialists
K – Chris Boswell
P — Pressley Harvin III

Last note before we dive in here: here’s how the list started out this season:

  • No. 24 — Pressley Harvin III, P
  • No. 23 — Devin Bush, ILB
  • No. 22 — Dan Moore Jr., LT
  • No. 21 — Mason Cole, C
  • No. 20 — George Pickens, WR 
  • No. 19 — Chukwuma Okorafor, RT 
  • No. 18 — Kevin Dotson, LG 
  • No. 17 — Mitch Trubisky, QB 
  • No. 16 — Cameron Sutton, CB 
  • No. 15 — Levi Wallace, CB
  • No. 14 — Terrell Edmunds, S
  • No. 13 — Tyson Alualu, iDL
  • No. 12 — Myles Jack, LB
  • No. 11 — Ahkello Witherspoon, CB
  • No. 10 — Chase Claypool, WR 
  • No. 9 — James Daniels, RG
  • No. 8 — Pat Freiermuth, TE
  • No. 7 — Alex Highsmith, OLB
  • No. 6 — Chris Boswell, K
  • No. 5 — Najee Harris, RB
  • No. 4 — Diontae Johnson, WR

No. 3 — Minkah Fitzpatrick, S

The highest-paid safety in football, and deservedly so. Since joining the Steelers early in the 2019 season in a surprise trade from the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick has been a star, holding down the centerfield role for the Steelers’ defense at safety, allowing Pittsburgh to do a number of creative things in front of him while allowing Fitzpatrick to freelance at times and make plays on the football.

Though he didn’t quite force many turnovers in 2021, Fitzpatrick was a steady presence for the Steelers defense, leading Pittsburgh in tackles as the black and gold struggled to stop the run. He cleaned up some tackling issues and really became a factor coming downhill in the run game, which was truly the final piece he seemed to be missing in his All-Pro game.

Now, with pieces around him fully healthy, Fitzpatrick should be able to return to his ball-hawking ways through the air, which will show the rest of the league why he deserves to be the highest-paid safety in football once again.

No. 2 — Cameron Heyward, DT 

There’s Aaron Donald, and then there’s Cameron Heyward right there at 1A when it comes to the best interior defensive linemen in football. That’s the correct order, and how it should be viewed no matter what.

Somehow, as he gets older in a position based on physicality and overall strength, Cameron Heyward continues to get better and better. It’s truly remarkable. He’s a high-end run defender and is an absolute bully as a pass rusher on the interior, using his absurd strength and quickness to win consistently on the inside.

Entering his 12th season in the NFL, the Steelers are now fully his team with Ben Roethlisberger retired. He’s already an exceptional leader, but now the spotlight is fully on him, which should lead to him receiving the accolades he’s due.

No. 1 — T.J. Watt, OLB

No surprise here, but it’s official: the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in T.J. Watt holds down the top spot in my Ranking The Steelers’ Starters series. Coming off of a season in which he finally won what was rightfully his the last few seasons and also tied the NFL’s single-season sacks record, Watt was the easy selection for the top spot here.

Despite being a known game-wrecker who draws a ton of double and triple-teams, Watt continues to flat-out dominate week after week in the NFL as one of the best players in the entire league. Just five seasons into his career, Watt is already on a Hall of Fame trajectory, which is remarkable to think about, and will likely be the best Watt when it’s all said and done, which is saying something considering the run that J.J. Watt had with the Houston Texans all those years ago.

His best football is still ahead of him too as he enters his prime, which should be a downright scary thought for the NFL overall.

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