Ranking the 25 best Defensive players on the Steelers

Tier 1

1. Mike Hilton (CB)

Mike Hilton is not the most valuable player to the Steelers defense. He is a slot corner. But I do not believe it would be a reach to call him the best. At 5’9, Hilton manages to combine speed and quickness with a tenacity and power. He covers well, and has been able to make multiple stops against the much, much bigger Rob Gronkowski in the past. But, more importantly, he is one of the few sure tacklers on this defense, even if he is small. The Steelers have also consistently used Hilton to rush off the edge, where his speed and tracking ability are on full display. He managed to rack up three sacks against the Houston Texans last year, and even when he isn’t getting sacks, he’s constantly pressuring the QB and forcing him out of the pocket. His run defense is impeccable for a slot corner, making the fact that he went undrafted just a few years ago seem unbelievable.

2. Joe Haden (CB)

Joe Haden is far from burnt out. He has been outstanding this season. The only knock on him are his constant injuries. He has been relatively healthy this season, but injuries are always a concern with him. Losing Haden, as the only good outside corner on this defense, could be very, very bad for this defense. Definitely the most valuable player on this defense currently.

3. Cameron Heyward (IDL)

Cameron Heyward hasn’t been as good as he was last year, but he is still very, very good. He’s tremendous against the run, and solid as a pass rusher. He racked up 12 sacks in 2017, and as an interior defender, that high number is near impossible.

4. T.J. Watt (OLB)

Watt is far from a perfect pass rusher and has had his problems in other areas. But as a second year player, his production has been exceptional. He covers far more than other pass rushers across the league, but still has solid sack numbers. Furthermore, his previously mentioned coverage ability is one of the best in the league for a LB his size. He displays insane athleticism and play-making ability, and while he is inconsistent, when he’s on, he is ON.

Tier 2

5. Stephon Tuitt (IDL)

Tuitt is another player who has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. But, he completely changes the defense when he is on the field. At 6’7, he is an absolute run-stuffer who forces the opposing team to throw the ball far more than they would like. He is a capable pass rusher who is a huge part of this Steelers defense.

6. Vince Williams (ILB)

Vince is an undersized, but physical inside linebacker. He’s no Ryan Shazier but he is well-rounded and a leader for this defense.

7. Sean Davis (FS)

Davis hasn’t been talked about much at all this season, but for safeties, that is a very good thing. Since changing to Free Safety, he has made no major mistakes and has kept a cap on opposing offenses. He has occasionally made some really big plays, but has done a good job staying conservative. If he begins making just a few more plays on the back end, he could jump up this list.

8. Javon Hargrave (NT)

Javon Hargrave is severely underutilized in the Steelers defense. Though undersized, H

argrave does a good job getting to the QB and stopping the run. If he is able to remain consistent, he may see more reps and continue performing.

9. Jon Bostic (ILB)

Jon Bostic has been good for the Steelers, but he is a bad fit for their scheme. He has been a sure tackler, good against the run, and even has a few sacks. But, he is often caught yards behind his receiver in coverage, though Keith Butler should try and avoid putting him in coverage in the first place.

Bud Dupree has 3.0 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 INT and 1 TD through 7 games.

10. Bud Dupree (OLB)

Dupree has improved from last year, but he still has a lot of work to do as a pass rusher. Most of his sacks are due to scheming rather than good one-on-one work from Dupree. But, Bud Dupree is also good in coverage and capable as a run defender and tackler.

11. Morgan Burnett (S/LB)

Burnett was very good for the Packers over the last couple of years, but has struggled to get on the field for the Steelers. Unlike Jon Bostic, Burnett is a very good fit for the Steelers, who has simply hasn’t played well recently. But, he is still listed in the top 11, cause I expect him to get back to his regular capabilities once fully healthy.

12. Terrell Edmunds (SS)

Edmunds has been better than many expected, especially considering scouts believed him to be a very raw prospect coming out of college. He started off pretty slow and raw, but has improved every game.

13. LJ Fort (ILB)

Fort is quite high up on this list considering he is often considered a depth piece and special-teamer more than a starting linebacker. But when he has been given the chance to play, he has been impressive. The young inside linebacker excels in coverage, but is inconsistent in other areas. If he becomes more fluid and better against the run, he could become a future starter.

Tier 3

Tyler Matakevich, a tackling machine in college, managed 6 combined tackles even while splitting reps with LJ Fort.

14. Tyler Matakevich (ILB) – Matakevich is a special teams ace, and while he might not be a starter, he is quality depth.

15. Cameron Sutton (CB) – Sutton is a good backup slot corner, but needs to improve on the outside. He does a good job sticking with the receiver but struggles to make a play on the ball.

16. Artie Burns (CB) – Burns is terribly inconsistent. Sometimes he is decent, but he has, by far, the worst and most noticeable bad performances of anyone on this list.

17. Tyson Alualu (IDL) – Alualu is a good backup. Nothing more. Nothing less.

18. Anthony Chickillo (OLB) – Chickillo is a below average backup, who occasionally has some good games.

19. Coty Sensebaugh (CB) – Sensebaugh struggles to stick with receivers on the most basic of routes. On most rosters, Sensebaugh would barely make the team, but with the Steelers, he has seen significant playing time.

Tier 4

20. Mathew Thomas (ILB) – Thomas’ athleticism alone puts him atop the 4th tier of players, but he has seen no real playing time. His ranking could go up or down.

21. Dan McCullers (DT) – Big Dan McCullers is good enough as a run stuffer. He doesn’t offer much else, but he does his job. Big improvement from last year.

22. Brian Allen (CB) – Special teams player who still has a lot of room to grow as a CB.

23. Marcus Allen (S) – Special-teamer. Was a good run defender in college but hasn’t been given the opportunity to play much yet.

24. LT Walton (IDL) – Depth piece. Solid for a bottom-of-the-depth-chart defensive lineman, but significant room to improve.

25. Jordan Dangerfield (S) – Special-teamer. Should not be on the roster, but the injury to Malike Golden made room for him.



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