2023 South Side Questions: Who Was Bigger Awards Snub, Highsmith Or Heyward?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, nearing the end of the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the year. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Based on performance rather than reputation, who’s omission from postseason accolades is more of a snub: Alex Highsmith or Cameron Heyward?

The Steelers had some standout individual seasons by defensive players this year. It’s largely been accepted that free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and his league-leading six interceptions was the best of the bunch, and he’s been recognized as such as a Pro Bowler starter and first-team All-Pro.

He’s the only one who made it, however, even though both defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith had very good seasons. Neither made the Pro Bowl, though have been listed as alternates. Neither was named to the All-Pro list, either, first or second team.

Heyward’s absence is obviously the more surprising given the fact that he has been a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro and his 2022 production was very much consistent with the number he had been putting up. Highsmith, however, also led the team with 14.5 sacks and was tied for the most forced fumbles in the league with five.

Of the two, based only on performance alone and not reputation or past history, who was more deserving of being named a Pro Bowler or All-Pro for the 2022 season? Who had a better year at their positions relative to the competition?

The All-Pro list is obviously tougher to make because it considers the entire league rather than dividing it up by conference, but a player without prior history as an All-Pro on a non-playoff-bound team probably has a better chance of being named All-Pro for a truly deserving season than he does cracking the Pro Bowl barrier.

One can’t help but wonder if things would be different for them this year had the Steelers done better. A lot of performances get ignored on a 3-7 team. Even though they rebounded to finish above .500, it was too little, too late, not just for the playoff but for the accolades.

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