Pro Football Focus is slowly releasing its Top 101 players and for the first time, two Pittsburgh Steelers have made the list. Defensive lineman Cam Heyward comes in at #29 while free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is ranked at #44.
Here’s the site’s blurb on Heyward, who just made the top 30.
“With T.J. Watt missing from the lineup for half the season, Heyward had to do the heavy lifting for the Steelers’ defense this season. He recorded 58 total pressures and 43 defensive stops, earning an 89.8 overall PFF grade.”
Heyward’s production dipped without Watt and he saw the most attention with him down. Still, Heyward had a great second half of the season and finished 2022 with 10.5 sacks, second-most on the team. Despite being 33, he’s still one of the strongest players in football and his bull rush is as potent as anyone’s. Heyward’s 7.5 sacks from Week Ten on were tied for the 10th most in football.
29th still feels a little low to rank him, especially seeing Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown ahead of him at #28 but it’s not a completely unreasonable slot for him.
Fitzpatrick ranked 44th on PFF”s Top 101 list. Coming off a career-high six picks, the site writes:
“When Fitzpatrick plays at his best, there is no better safety in the game, and this season was arguably the longest-sustained period of elite play in his career. He generated six interceptions and four pass breakups, earning the highest PFF coverage grade of his career (83.3).”
PFF has been semi-critical of Fitzpatrick in the past for inconsistent play and he had his low points this season, highlighted by a long touchdown allowed in a blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But overall, Fitzpatrick was excellent, making big plays in clutch moments. He was the only player in the league this year with multiple interceptions in the final two minutes.
He finished the year with 96 tackles, down from 124 in 2021, a good sign that meant Fitzpatrick had to make fewer plays against the run. Overall, Pittsburgh’s run defense finished in the top ten after bottoming out to 32nd in 2021. His six interceptions tied for most in the league and he made another Pro Bowl and All-Pro team, three each in his career through five years in the NFL.
Heyward and Fitzpatrick are likely to be the only two Steelers on this list. PFF makes its Top 101 based solely off the 2022 season, meaning T.J. Watt is likely to be off it after missing half the year with a partially torn pec. And there’s no other player on the roster who is going to make the Top 25.