This weekend NFL Network will be revealing their Top 100 Players of 2020 as voted on by fellow NFL players. While we will have to wait until Sunday to see how the list shapes out, the NFL did give fans an early sneak peak when they released a list of how many players from each team made the list. The Steelers only have three players who will make the cut, a disappointing number when you consider the division rival Ravens and Browns have 7 and 4 respectively. The complete breakdown by team can be seen below:
So the question then becomes which Steelers players made the list, and where did they land. I decided I'd take a shot at predicting how the list will turn out, but first, let's name a few honorable mentions.
The first name that comes to mind is Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers longtime starting quarterback missed almost all of the 2019 NFL season, but still could have found a spot on the list considering he has been on the list every year since it began back in 2012. Unfortunately, it appears as though his injury was enough to not only drop him below his 44th ranked position last season but off the list completely.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are two more players who made the top 100 last year but likely won't this season. After injuries and quarterback woes plagued each of their 2019 campaigns, the two young offensive playmakers will have to work to earn back a spot in the top 100 next summer.
The last player who deserves a mention even though his name probably won't be mentioned this weekend is David DeCastro. DeCastro was snubbed off of last year's list and with the news that only three Steelers are in the top 100 it seems more than likely he will be snubbed again. There is a case to be made for all four of these players and even a few other Steelers to make the list, but unfortunately they all seem destined to fall short.
So, now that we have covered the honorable mentions, let's get into the players who I believe will make an appearance on the list.
Cameron Heyward (#47)
Cam has made the list each of the past two years, finishing 48th in 2018 and 88th in 2019. While I personally believe he deserves to be much higher than 47th, it's hard to imagine a jump of more than 30 or 40 spots in just one season. Last year he solidified himself as one of the top interior linemen in the league by recording 9 sacks and 81 total tackles (the highest mark of his career). He also earned a first-team All-Pro nod for the second time since 2017. The last time he received that honor he finished 48th on the list, so it would make sense for him to find himself right around that spot again. Additionally, it would be fitting for him to take the 47 spot as it was held by another Steeler (Juju Smith-Schuster) last year. Entering a contract year in which he will try to earn a sizable extension, it wouldn't be surprising to see Cam continue to dominate and bring his ranking up even more come next summer.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (#39)
It might be wishful thinking to believe that someone left completely off of Pete Prisco's Top 100 list will finish in the top 40, but I certainly think it's possible. Minkah is coming off of a true breakout season that saw him not only nab 5 interceptions but also earn first-team All-Pro honors. He emerged as one of the top young talents at the safety position and is well on his way to becoming a superstar in the NFL. Last year, three safeties finished in the top 40, with Jamal Adams, Derwin James, and Eddie Jackson taking spots #37, #31, and #30 respectively. What's interesting to note is that each of these players was coming off of their first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. Minkah is in that exact same position so he should fall somewhere near where they did. The #39 position would seem appropriate for a guy who started wearing #39 when he arrived in Pittsburgh and began to dominate.
T.J. Watt (#10)
The only Steelers players ever to finish in the top ten are Antonio Brown and Le'veon Bell. I think that'll change this year with T.J. Watt coming in at #10 on the list. The young outside linebacker established himself as one of the top defensive threats in the league by recording 14.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles last season. He finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and made the All-Pro team not once, but twice (as an edge rusher and as a linebacker). In my opinion the only defenders who deserve to be above him at this point in his career are Aaron Donald and Stephon Gilmore, although an argument could be made for a handful of other players. I am slightly fearful that because of his low finish on the list last year (#93), he will not receive the respect he deserves, but I am remaining optimistic that players around the league will recognize just how great of a player T.J. has become. Oh, and if they somehow still put his brother J.J. above him after he played only 8 games and had just 4 sacks last season, please put me in contact with the people who voted.
So what Steelers do you think will make the NFL Top 100? And where on the list do you think they will fall? Let us know in comments.