No, I didn’t watch any of the 2020 Pro Bowl. And, yes, by all accounts, it sounds like the players were once again half-heartedly blocking and tackling during the AFC’s 38-33 victory over the NFC on Sunday afternoon in Orlando, Florida.
Having said all of that, however, it sure seemed like the Steelers had a blast. In fact, with the way the AFC clinched its win thanks to a 92-yard scoop and score by former college tight end and possible 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, it sounded like the four Pittsburgh defenders who participated—defensive end Cameron Heyward, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, cornerback Joe Haden and Watt—were fine with continuing the theme they started with the Steelers injury-riddled offense during the regular season: “We got this.”
How many times were games turned in 2019 due to takeaways, as well as touchdowns off of them?
Watt’s touchdown put the AFC up by 11 points, but on the NFC’s preceding offensive series, Haden recorded an interception at midfield, a present that the AFC re-gifted two plays later with an interception of its own....that sequence sure made it feel like the Steelers were playing on Sunday.
I realize I’m making it seem like the Steelers Pro Bowl defenders were playing as if they were members of the ‘70s legendary Steel Curtain squad. In reality, the official box score shows that Watt’s score was his only recorded statistic of the day. As for Fitzpatrick, he recorded one pass defensed, same as Heyward.
But I just think it’s cool that the Steelers defense was so heavily represented at the Pro Bowl.
It bodes well for 2020 and beyond. It bodes well for the Steelers as contenders next year, provided they have a healthy Ben Roethlisberger taking the snaps from center. I think it boosts the confidence of the organization as a whole. The front office has to know what it now has in its defense. It has to know that this unit must be kept together for as long as possible. If this means slapping the franchise tag on outside linebacker Bud Dupree at a cost of $16 million? So be it. If this means cutting some popular veterans from the roster in order to make room under the salary cap? That’s sometimes the price of business. If it means kicking the proverbial can down the road a bit more and dealing with the financial ramifications of that at a later time and offseason? Hey, if there’s one team that’s expert at doing that, it’s the Steelers.
With the way the Steelers defenders went about their business in Orlando—both before and during the game—it sure seemed like they wanted to keep the 2019 party going for as long as possible.
If they can carry that kind of attitude and intensity into the 2020 offseason, that can only mean good things for the 2020 regular season.