As a child, superheroes didn’t really interest me. I mean, Superman was cool, but I wasn’t really enthralled by the comics. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off in 2008 with the first Iron Man movie, I still wasn’t that intrigued. Honestly, it wasn’t until I got to college in 2016 where I really dove into the lore and intrigue of Marvel.
A couple of friends of mine were discussing the latest MCU movie, which at the time was Captain America: Civil War. I hadn’t seen it. But when our school played it as that week’s movie special, we all went to see it at the student theater. I was hooked.
I dove into the MCU, reinventing my love of Iron Man and cementing my love of others, like the Guardians of the Galaxy and the impeccable Captain America trilogy.
When Avengers: Endgame was released in theaters in April 2019, I was fortunate enough to conclude the saga with a couple of my friends who awoke the passion within me. Unfortunately, one of those friends is no longer around. That doesn’t diminish the impact that he and my friend Mike had on my love of superheroes; it only secures it in my heart.
I don’t know if it’s socially acceptable to combine superheroes and football. Maybe it’s fitting with children equating their favorite players to their favorite superheroes. But if Steven Nelson can say Joe Haden and him are Superman and Batman, then I think we can breakdown which Pittsburgh Steelers match up with which Marvel/DC superheroes.
Of course, this is subjective. We could debate for hours which Steelers player is Iron Man for days, but I’m going to offer my take on it. And for clarity’s sake, I’m going to focus on the more well-known superheroes in the MCU/DC Extended Universe.
So let’s get this party started...
JuJu Smith-Schuster as Spider-Man
Young, energetic and full of humor. Does this not describe JuJu Smith-Schuster? With Spider-Man being the youngest Avenger, and JuJu being just 20 during his first NFL season and the youngest player in the NFL at the time, the youthful exuberance is well-placed. After decking Vontaze Burfict in Week 13 the 2017 NFL season, Smith-Schuster achieved cult status in Pittsburgh at a very young age. Similarily, Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes in the world.
As the youngest wide receiver to reach both 1,500 and 2,500 yards in NFL history, JuJu Smith-Schuter has seen higher peaks than a lot of players in NFL history. However, after suffering a down year without his Iron Man (oh, the heartbreak), some of the fanbase turned on JuJu as two key fumbles and penchant for having fun alienated those who demand a “what have you done for me lately” result.
With Smith-Schuster having likely gone through his Homecoming and Infinity War arc, let’s hope for the triumphant End Game (and subsequent Far From Home) comeback in 2020.
T.J. Watt as Captain America
No one will ever carry the charm and charisma of Chris Evans’ “Cap”, but T.J. Watt has the perfect blend of power and charisma to be Captain Pittsburgh. This, of course, makes Derek Watt the Winter Solider perhaps?
With his ferocious fist, which forced a league-leading eight fumbles last season, acting as his famed vibranium shield, Watt completed his super soldier transformation last season and established himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
As someone who feels that the Captain America trilogy was the best in the Cinematic Marvel Universe, it’s fitting to me that the best player on the Steelers serves as Captain Pittsburgh.. I mean, America.
Alejandro Villanueva is a real-life Captain America
Let’s check the resume: A literal captain in the United States Army, a recipient of a Bronze Star for valor, and an Army Ranger with three tours of duty in Afghanistan after playing college football for the Army Black Knights.
Big Al is a true American hero, earning his Bronze Star during a year-long deployment to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division to help with Operation Enduring Freedom. Villanueva earned his Bronze Star with a “V” device to signify heroism or valor in combat after rescuing wounded soldiers while under enemy gunfire.
After being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles during the preseason in 2014, Villaneuva was quickly picked up by the Steelers and spent the subsequent season the practice squad. After playing 16 games in 2015, starting 10, he became the full-time left tackle in 2016 and hasn’t missed a game since.
Zach Banner as Deadpool
To be clear, I’m referring to Deadpool just before he really came into his own as an antihero.
As the Steelers’ famous eligible receiver on the offensive line, Banner hasn’t really seen his moment to shine yet. However, the multi-talented offensive lineman has become a sensation of sorts in Pittsburgh.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the best follows on Twitter, which is kind of where the wisecracking Deadpool comparison comes from. With the wit and charm down, once Banner starts making an impact by catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger while opening holes for whoever carries the ball for the Steelers next year, his Deadpool arc will be complete.
Ben Roethlisberger as Batman
Speaking of Big Ben, he was hard to place. I went through a couple of choices, as there isn’t really a perfect comparison. But I think he makes sense as Batman.
As one of the toughest players to tackle in the NFL, equipped with one of the strongest arms in the game, Roethlisberger has his Batman-esqe feats of athletic prowess. While he’s not shredded like the Dark Knight, I think we can all imagine what he’d do to opposing defenses if he went through the rigorous training montages Ben Affleck did in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
When connecting Big Ben to Christian Bale’s Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy (my personal favorite of any superhero trilogy), after nearly a full season off and with serious doubt among most concerning his ability to lead the Steelers to meaningful games this winter, it’s reminiscent of Batman returning to stop Bane in the Dark Knight Rises.
Conveniently, ending the season with his third Super Bowl title (the Dark Knight Rises coming as the third in the Dark Knight trilogy), the comparison has the chance to come full circle.
Cam Heyward as the Incredible Hulk
In the case of the heart and soul of the Steelers, Cameron Heyward provides a pretty cool blend of the Incredible Hulk and Bruce Banner.
While not fully encapsulating the leadership which Heyward provides for the Steelers, his intelligence and powerful voice off the field channels that of Bruce Banner, but his dominant, Herculean efforts on the field are more reminiscent of the Hulk.
With today’s crop of Marvel fans tending to fall as either Iron Man, Captain America or Spider-Man fans, the Hulk sometimes flies under the radar. It’s kind of how Heyward is serially underrated among the NFL’s best players.
Mike Tomlin as Nick Fury
In selecting the comparison of another leader, maybe the leader of all leaders, Mike Tomlin made his Nick Fury comparison quite easy.
Gruff, no nonsense peronalities who lead some of the greatest teams of all time (wishfully looking at you 2017 Steelers), Tomlin embodies just how cool Nick Fury is throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While Tomlin sometimes gets a bad rap for being too friendly or soft with his teams, his job last season cemented him as one of the best coaches in the NFL — as if it wasn’t already abundantly clear.
Chris Boswell as Hawkeye
With the exception of a snake-bitten 2018 season, Chris Boswell encompasses the sharp-shooting charachter. While no one, not even Justin Tucker, can really be as accurate as Hawkeye, Boswell has been pretty darn close with the Steelers — you know, barring that 2018 season.
With three seasons nailing field goals 90% of the time or better, punctuated by an NFL third-best mark of 93.5% last season and perfection on point after attempts, Boswell has earned his Hawkeye comparison.
Minkah Fitzpatrick as Scarlet Witch; Devin Bush as Quicksilver
Entering the NFL as the 11th pick in 2018 via the Miami Dolphins and the 10th pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Devin Bush stepped into their roles with the Steelers around the same time. As two of the youngest players on the Steelers’ roster, their roles in 2019 looked the part of multi-year veterans.
As such, it’s only fitting to appoint Fitzpatrick and Bush as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively.
As one of the strongest yet most underrated Avengers, Scarlet Witch is incredibly slept on. Coincidentally, Fitzpatrick was one of the best safeties in the NFL in 2019 yet didn’t get the respect he deserved from some in the national media.
As twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are intertwined. While Quicksilver sacrificed himself early in his MCU debut, Bush has the chance to become the completed version of Quicksilver. A lightning quick superhero with the ability to greatly aid the Avengers — the Steelers, in this case.
As with any comparison article, some of these choices felt natural and some felt maybe a bit forced. However, with a team of great men, it was refreshing to highlight some of the best comparisons.
Those, namely Maurkice Pouncey and James Conner, who weren’t given comparisons because I couldn’t come up with a satisfying comp, but that doesn’t detract from their status of being exemplary men.
What would be some of your suggestions for guys like Pouncey and Conner? Or anyone on the roster? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.