Three Steelers Find Themselves on the NFL Top 100 List

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By: Sean McGeown, @seanpmcgeown
SteelerNation.com

It’s that time of year. The NFL Top 100 list, voted for by the players themselves. As usual, the rankings come in and people have their opinions of the guys on the list, whether they are too low, too high, don’t belong at all, or in some cases should be on it and aren’t. This year three players from the Pittsburgh Steelers made it: Cam Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and TJ Watt.

Heyward was the first name to be called, coming in as the 84th ranked player. His third year in a row being voted to the list. Right off the bat, this ranking is absurd. Of course, out of all the players in the league and what it takes to make it there, to be named to the list is an honor, and Heyward has become a mainstay. However 84 is way too low for a guy who was First-Team All Pro and a Pro Bowler. Take a look at his stats compared to two players who play the same position who were ranked higher than Heyward:

The stats speak for themselves. The Steelers defensive captain may have made the list, but it feels like a snub in all reality. Some say this list is based off the body of work of the player and not just one season, and if that is the case, he should still be ranked higher (or lower). He is coming off his third straight Pro Bowl and his second First-Team All Pro in three seasons. In those three seasons, he has tallied 29 sacks, 179 tackles, 12 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries. He has always been seen as underrated to a certain degree, but this just feels egregious and disrespectful.

49 spots later, Fitzpatrick comes in. Voted as the 35th best player in the NFL, this ranking seemed more appropriate. In just his second year in the league and after being traded to Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick had a stellar 2019 season. He racked up 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 defensive touchdowns. He was voted to his first Pro Bowl and was named as a First-Team All Pro selection.

This ranking seemed fair to me. I was waiting to see them announce Fitzpatrick way higher than 35 after the Heyward rating, but was relieved when he was announced where he was. The only other safety ranked higher was Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams at 27, which is respectable. Adams was the other safety along with Fitzpatrick on the First-Team and he was on the list last year. Fitzpatrick is definitely a top 50 player and an elite defensive talent who I believe will end up finding his way even farther down the list in years to come.

Watt was the final Pittsburgh player voted to the Top 100, coming in at 25 after being ranked 93 on last season’s list. This 68 spot jump is not unwarranted. Watt put himself together a 2019 that had him in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. The third year linebacker had 14.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles (tied for league high), and 2 interceptions. This earned him his second straight Pro Bowl nod and spots on the First and Second-Team All Pro (first for edge rusher, second for linebacker).

I agree that Watt is a top 25 player, without question, however, I don’t believe he is 25, and some of the players at his position voted ahead of him left me scratching my head a little (namely Chicago Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack ranked 19, and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa ranked 17). Neither Mack nor Bosa had a better season in 2019 statistically than Watt in any category, and although both were voted to the Pro Bowl, neither made First-Team All Pro.

I believe Watt should have been rated higher than both of these players, especially Bosa, with him being a rookie and joining a defensive line already loaded with talent. The same could be said for Watt and the front four he plays with, but the schemes are different, and the depth Bosa has at his actual position is better than that of Watt. Mack is a former defensive player of the year and a main stay on the list, so his ranking made slightly more sense to me, but I still feel Watt deserved a higher ranking based off 2019. With that being said, the jump from last season’s list to his ranking on this season is a testament to his play and the respect those around the league have for the rising star.

Although it is a tough list to make and 100 players really isn’t a lot in the scope of how many players there are in the league, I do believe a couple of Steelers players were snubbed. The first is Steelers Pro Bowl guard, David Decastro. He was snubbed on last years list as well after being on the list for 2016 and 2017 respectively. He was voted to his fifth straight Pro Bowl this season and continues to be one of the most dominant guards in football. The second snub in my eyes is edge rusher Bud Dupree who had a breakout 2019 season. Dupree had 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 68 total tackles. It was his first year cracking double digit sacks in five seasons, but again, Nick Bosa made the list as a rookie, and had 2.5 less sacks than Dupree.

Cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson could have been on the list in my opinion as well. Haden had 5 interceptions, and Nelson was rated the sixth highest man coverage corner in the league, and let up no touchdowns. Again its a tight list, but those four would have been worthy to me somewhere on the list, even if it was towards 100.

Compared to last year, the number of Steelers players on the list was cut in half. The players that made the list who were not on it last year were quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and running back James Conner. Heyward and Watt were both on it for 2018 as stated earlier. Brown is no longer with the team, and the other three will look to land on the list for next season.

With that said, do you agree with where the three who made the list this year were ranked? Why or why not? Who should have been on the list? Let us know in the comment section on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

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