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Steelers have two interior defensive linemen in the NFL’s Top 10 in 2021

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two defensive linemen in the NFL’s Top 10, according to ESPN.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If you look at the calendar, you see it is in the early weeks of July. For the NFL fan that means one thing — it’s ranking season.

With NFL news at a standstill, barring injuries or off-field trouble, many media outlets decide to run rankings to keep fans checking their site. It make sense, after all, what else is there to discuss when nothing is happening? It is a great way to tide fans over until training camp starts at the end of the month.

ESPN has been doing their Top 10 rankings per position, and they recently took a stab at the interior defensive line.

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who they had as their top interior defensive lineman. How about the player who won Defensive Player of the Year last year? But the Pittsburgh Steelers have some stellar defensive linemen of their own. Where did they rank?

How about the Steelers have two defensive linemen cracking the Top 10 of ESPN’s list. Check out who made it, starting with Mr. Cameron Heyward.

4. Cam Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest ranking: 2 | Lowest ranking: 11

Age: 32 | Last year’s ranking: 6

Heyward isn’t in the top five for everyone, but he rarely falls past No. 7 on the ballots. One of the league’s most consistent performers inside is still playing at a high level. The only real knock is he might have missed a few sacks (four on the year, down from an 8.5 average the previous two seasons).

But his 21 incompletions created is the third-best mark on this list, using his length (34.25-inch arms) and power to penetrate the line.

“Steady, consistent, productive, technician,” an AFC scout said. “Once he gets those long arms in your chest, he can push you back.”

Added an NFC exec: “He really came on late in the year. For that stretch he was back to doing what he does. ... When you play Pittsburgh, he was the guy we said we had to stop. The reason why is you can’t block that joker inside.”

If Heyward is listed at No. 4, you have to assume Stephon Tuitt made the list at some point, right? He certainly did, coming in at No. 8.

8. Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: Unranked

Age: 28 | Last year’s ranking: N/A

Tuitt broke out in his seventh season with 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and 25 quarterback hits.

“Incredibly gifted player,” an NFC scout said. “Comes and goes, but when he’s on, he’s a massive problem.”

That problem manifests in defensive attention. Tuitt demanded 187 double teams on pass rushes (sixth most in the league) despite playing alongside stars Heyward, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.

“Take away the injuries and inconsistencies from past years and he’s top-five, easily,” an AFC exec said. “[Heyward] has been that guy on the [Steelers] D-line for a while, but it kind of started to flip this year where Tuitt got some of the attention.”

For those who want to know ESPN’s Top 10, they are listed below:

1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
2. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
3. DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts
4. Cam Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles
6. Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans
7. Leonard Williams, New York Giants
8. Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

What do you think about the list? Do you think Heyward and Tuitt are ranked appropriately, or should they scoff at the list? 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 Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.