With the Steelers preparing themselves for the final four contests of the season, there have been players that have been playing as expected and those that have stepped up out of nowhere. This has inspired me to rank the Steelers that have had the finest twelve games of the first half of the 2019 season.
Steelers Power Rankings
1) T.J. Watt ↕️
Previous Rank: 1
T.J. Watt is the driving force behind the Pittsburgh Steelers defense right now. In his third NFL season, No. 90 is already tied for No. 11 on the all-time sack list with 32.5 sacks. His 12.5 in 2019 ranks him fourth in the league and the single-season mark in franchise history is in reach at 16 (James Harrison-2008). In the past nine games, Watt has had at least a half of a sack. Pro Football Focus has him at the top of their list for Edge Rushers as well. The defense, as a whole, is top shelf, but T.J. Watt is playing at an elite level.
2) Minkah Fitzpatrick ↕️
Previous Rank: No. 2
Nobody in Steeler Nation is really lamenting the trade of a No. 1 pick for Fitzpatrick at this juncture. The second-year safety has five interceptions in six games as a Steeler, including a pick-six of 96 yards against Indy and an alert fumble recovery for a score against the Ram. Minkah is ranked 5th at his position by PFF (rising 15 spots from four weeks ago) and is tied with Marcus Peters and Devin McCourty for the interception lead. No. 39 is getting credit for being the true stabilizing force that has transformed a paltry defensive unit into a juggernaut.
3) Bud Dupree ⬆️
Previous Rank: No. 4
A lot of fans and pundits wonder why it has taken Bud Dupree so long to look like a superstar and wonder if his success is powered solely by the fact that his contract is expiring. Bud is having a career year as the Steelers are letting him play the way he was meant to. With 8.5 sacks so far and having four forced-fumbles, Dupree is ranked as PFF’s 17th best rusher coming off the edge. Combining him with the No.1 Edge (T.J. Watt) and the Steelers have one of the best pass rushing combos in the league.
4) Cam Heyward ⬇️
Previous Rank: No. 3
Seven sacks has the stalwart veteran of the Steeler defense who once again resembles his dominant self of the past few seasons. No. 97 is ranked only behind Aaron Donald in PFF’s ranking of defensive lineman and Heyward currently is tops in AFC Pro Bowl voting at his position.
5) Joe Haden ⬆️
Previous Rank: Not Ranked
Haden got paid right before the season to secure more time in Pittsburgh, however there were some pundits that felt his skills were eroding and decried the extension to stay in Steel City. As of late, Haden’s performance has definitely warranted that pay day. Joe is ranked six in passes defenses with 13 and his two interceptions have iced two of the last three victories. Haden gets more passes thrown his way than his counterpart Steven Nelson. No. 23 is most definitely a locker room leader and is becoming the epitome of a Steeler.
6) Vince Williams ⬆️
Previous Rank: No. 8
VinnyVidiVici98 is so valuable to this team. It is no coincidence that the Steelers defense started to emerge when the seven-year vet returned from injury. Before the season, the media and fans were hinting that No. 98’s lack of speed was a liability and were calling for his demotion with speedier linebackers on the roster. PFF’s 10th-ranked ILB is a staunch and suffocating run defender and is finally getting recognized as a valuable team presence.
7) Devin Bush ⬆️
Previous Rank: No. 7
The rookie from a Michigan came in with a whole lot of fanfare and has proven already that the draft day trade to acquire him was a brilliant move. Bush with his great sideline-to-sideline speed does not have to carry the defense right now and merely needs to continue to grow into the role every week. The rookie is leading AFC ILBs in Pro Bowl voting and the team with 86 tackles and also has four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a score.
8) Steven Nelson ⬆️
Previous Rank: No. 9
Nelson and Joe Haden have teamed-up to form the Steelers best cornerback-tandem in years. Nelson’s signing in free agency last March was not met with a whole lot of fanfare, but the former KC Chief has significantly upgraded the Steelers secondary. No. 22 is credited with five passes defensed and no interceptions, but quarterbacks are avoiding Nelson like the plague. His not letting receivers get separation is one of the key reasons that the Steeler secondary is becoming a team strength.
9) Chris Boswell ⬇️
Previous Rank: No. 6
If Justin Tucker and the Ravens make the Super Bowl this year, Chris Boswell will most likely be selected to his second Pro Bowl. Last year is starting to seem more like an aberration when it comes to the field goal accuracy of No. 9, the Rice product is second only to Tucker in PFF’s FG rankings and is kicking with clutch accuracy once again. Boz is 23/25 and perfect on point-afters. His only two misses were from 54-yards out against Miami and the result of a bobbled hold in Cleveland. An invigorated Boswell is helping to carry the Steelers offense for stretches and seems to be the only true scoring option for Pittsburgh.
10) Maurkice Pouncey/David DeCastro ⬆️
Previous Rank: Not Ranked
It’s kind of a cop-out to combine the two players here, but I didn’t want to have to choose between both of these vital team leaders. DeCastro at 14 and Pouncey at 36 respectively in PFF’s rankings at their respective positions are still dominant in the field of play and (evident in Cleveland in Week 11) loyal teammates.
Honorable Mention: Devlin Hodges, Jordan Berry, James Washington, Javon Hargrave, Mike Hilton, Zach Banner
Falling Off: No. 5 James Conner, No. 10 Mason Rudolph
If the Steelers are to continue to rebound from 1-4 and make the playoffs, the power players need to keep their momentum going strong. At 6-5, the Steelers will need to continue to forge ahead with these ten leading the way. Post your agreements and the opposite in the comments section below.