As the Steelers head towards free agency and prepare to build the 2022 roster, it is a good time to take a look back at 2021 again, and rank the top ten Steelers players of the season. There are a good number of players who played well, and a lot who didn’t.
I compiled a short list of 10 players to put in this first poll, and as players are chosen, a new name will be added. So whoever wins this weeks poll will be crowned the best Steeler of 2021, their name will be removed, another added and we’ll vote for the second best player. That will continue until we’ve chosen the top ten players on the Steelers. For the most part there is only one player per position. It’s unlikely anyone would vote for Alex Highsmith over T.J. Watt. . .
Let’s take a quick look at the candidates:
Bold = led Steelers in stat, * = led NFL in stat
Chris Boswell: In a season where the offense struggled mightily, Boswell carried a lot of the scoring load, making the second most field goals of any NFL kicker, while tying Justin Tucker for the most 40+ yard field goals made on the season.
Stat line: 36/40 field goals, 27/29 extra points.
Kevin Dotson: Dotson only appeared in 9 games for the Steelers, and it showed. With rookies starting on either side of him, Dotson was the anchor of the line, and that line was improving before he was hurt. The Steelers recorded 5 straight 100+ yard rushing games, a streak that ended with Dotson’s injury. That span of time involved the only two wins the Steelers recorded where their opponent scored 20 or more points.
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Despite turnover in the secondary and the defensive front falling apart, Minkah Fitzpatrick helped keep the secondary playing well. The Steelers were able to stay right on the edge of the top ten passing defenses while becoming the Steelers primary run stopper for far too much of the season.
Stat line: 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 1 fumble forced, 1 fumble recovered, 84 solo tackles.
Pat Freiermuth: The rookie tight end had a great first year, showing up as a quality blocker and dynamic receiving threat, his 7 TDs on 79 targets shows his ability to produce points in the red zone, and only Najee Harris was targeted more than 25 times while posting a higher catch rate than Freiermuth’s 75.9%. While his overall numbers weren’t stunning, the young man provided a massive upgrade at the position in just his first season.
Stat line: 79 targets, 60 receptions, 497 yards, 7 TDs.
Joe Haden: The veteran cornerback missed 5 games, but was still the Steelers best cornerback over the course of the season, and the Steelers defense continues to be a much better defense when he plays and the Steelers continue to win far more of their games with him than when he is out.
Stat line: 0 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 26 solo tackles.
Najee Harris: Harris broke the Steelers rookie rushing record despite running behind an offensive line that was in bad shape most of the season. When the offensive line was able to give him mediocre play, Harris dominated.
Stat line: 1200 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 467 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs.
Cameron Heyward: While T.J. Watt was the Defensive Player of the Year for the NFL, it’s hard to say he was even the best defender on the team, Cameron Heyward’s continued excellence in a season when he was often acting as a 1-man defensive line cannot be over valued.
Stat line: 10 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 9 passes defended, 53 solo tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 17 QB hits.
Diontae Johnson: The Steelers leading receiver made his first playoff appearance and recorded the first 1000 yard receiving season since 2018. While his efficiency numbers were not good, it wasn’t just Johnson, the entire passing offense was bad.
Stat line: 169 targets, 107 receptions, 8 receiving TDs.
Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers quarterback was a shell of his former self, and yet it is hard to believe that the team would have made the improbable run to the playoffs without him. Similar to Jerome Bettis being a major reason the 2005 Steelers won the Super Bowl while he was a backup, Ben Roethlisberger’s importance to the 2021 Steelers likely is more than his ability to still play the game.
Stat line: 3740 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 10 interceptions.
T.J. Watt: Defensive Player of the Year, he tied the official single-season sack record. T.J. Watt is an obvious inclusion on this list.
Stat line: *22.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 7 passes defended, 48 solo tackles, *21 tackles for a loss, 39 QB hits.
Now it is up to you to make your selection. Who should be rated the top Steeler of 2021, and who should come back to compete for 2nd?
Who was the best Steeler player of 2021?
This poll is closed