It is that time of year again. The Super Bowl is now behind us, and the lengthy NFL offseason is officially upon us. How do we all kill the time? We take in as much content as we can, and with the new league year not starting until March, the month of February might as well be called “List Month” considering many outlets start providing their best player lists from the previous year.
The folks at Pro Football Focus have started their Top 101 players of 2019 list, and while the complete have finally been released, the Pittsburgh Steelers were well represented throughout.
When I saw some of the Steelers who made the list, and their rankings, I was surprised. To be honest, with some I was downright shocked, but I had to remind myself how difficult it has to be to rank all players and positions in just 101 spots. Not an easy task, but that doesn’t mean we can’t gripe about our favorite players deserving to be higher!
Check out who has made the list so far, and where they rank:
94. S MINKAH FITZPATRICK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
If we were looking only at the Minkah Fitzpatrick who played in Pittsburgh, he would likely be higher on this list, but PFF grades every play of the season, and Miami Minkah was a thing that happened, albeit just for a couple of weeks. In Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick showed that he could be a far bigger playmaker than the Dolphins ever coaxed from him, and he made several game-changing plays for them in his new home. Inconsistency remained his biggest issue, but there is no doubting the big-time playmaking ability he has.
86. CB STEVEN NELSON, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
One of the more underrated players in all of football, Steven Nelson had an excellent season for the Pittsburgh Steelers after being “just another member” of a Chiefs defense that was disappointing in 2018. Nelson allowed just 51.5% of passes thrown his way this season to be caught and allowed only one touchdown across the 66 passes thrown into his coverage. Nelson’s run defense was also solid, and he demonstrated that, while on a better unit, he was capable of much better play than he was being given credit for while playing in Kansas City.
68. DI JAVON HARGRAVE, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
An injury to Stephon Tuitt opened the door for nose tackle Javon Hargrave to prove he could be more than just a run-stuffing body on the defensive line in a contract year, and he did exactly that over the season. Hargrave played 225 snaps more than his previous career-high, and he responded by notching more total pressures (49) than his previous two seasons combined (41). He maintained his impressive work against the run but showed that he can be a legitimate force as a pass-rusher and more than just a rotational body, earning the best overall PFF grade of his career in the process (83.4).
10. DI CAMERON HEYWARD, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Every season there is a battle to earn the position of the best interior defender in the league not named Aaron Donald. This season, Cameron Heyward raised his hand, and his game, to take that honor. With teammate Stephon Tuitt getting injured, Heyward needed to up his game and did exactly that, registering 59 total pressures and 44 defensive stops. The latter figure was a career-best, seven more than his previous high, while his 59 pressures were good enough to earn a PFF pass-rushing grade of 84.0. His overall PFF grade of 91.5 was the best mark of his career and the second-best mark among interior defenders in 2019.
6. EDGE T.J. WATT, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
T.J. Watt had been an impressive pass-rusher for a while, but this was the year he took that step towards being an elite, game-changing force, and he firmly stepped outside the shadow cast by his brother. The younger Watt finished the season with 81 total pressures, a massive eight forced fumbles and even two interceptions, as he elevated his game from simply generating pressure to finishing impact plays and changing the game with turnovers. His 91.3 overall PFF grade was the highest among all edge rushers, and his pass-rushing grade of 91.7 also led the league at his position.
Curious who rounded out the Top 10?
Here you go:
1. George Kittle, 49ers
2. Aaron Donald. Rams
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
5. Brandon Brooks, Eagles
6. T.J. Watt, Steelers
7. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
8. Michael Thomas, Saints
9. Ryan Ramczyk, Saints
10. Cam Heyward, Steelres
The fact PFF had Minkah Fitzpatrick ranked 94th almost immediately makes their entire list invalid, but it is their list, not mine. What do you think of the list as a whole?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold throughout the offseason.