As the Steelers continue through free agency and are building their 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.
Our top two players have been chosen, T.J. Watt was #1, and now Cameron Heyward joins him as the 2nd most valuable Steeler.
Cameron Heyward was the Steelers defensive captain for the 7th straight year, and at 32 years of age, his level of play was as good as ever. The Steelers defensive line fell apart with injuries, and often looked like Cameron Heyward was the only good defensive lineman on the team. Teams consistently had success simply running the play away from Cameron Heyward, and yet Heyward still produced a ton of stats, setting career highs in solo tackles and assists, recording the second most tackles for a loss and sacks of his career. But perhaps most impressive, he led the Steelers with 9 passes defended while recording his second career interception.
Cameron Heyward literally did everything he could on the 2022 Steelers defense, and he earned his third First Team All-Pro selection and his 5th straight Pro Bowl appearance. While Cameron Heyward continues to build the resume on his potentially Hall of Fame career, he also continues to be a major winner off the field. For the fourth time the Steelers nominated Heyward for the Walter Peyton NFL Man of the Year award, and he was selected by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America for “The Chief Award.” This is Heyward’s third time winning the award for his interactions with the media, tying Hall of Fame RB and Steeler legend Jerome Bettis.
Cameron Heyward does everything right, except maybe cooking steaks, and it is a credit to him that it took a record setting season and Defensive Player of the Year winner to top him in 2021.
With the top 2 spots in our top ten decided, we welcome Chris Wormley to the 10 players that are now competing for the #3 spot in our BTSC Steelers top ten.
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.
Alex Highsmith: In his second year, Highsmith stepped into a starting role in 2021. In that role Highsmith recorded only 6 sacks but continued to show he is a sound defensive player who is strong in all phases of the game. While we look forward to Highsmith growing further into his role in 2022, his play in 2021 was definitely above the line.
Stat line: 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 46 solo tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 15 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.
Chris Wormley: Chris Wormley was put into a much bigger role than he had played before in 2021, when injuries moved him from the #4 defensive lineman on the team to #2. In that increased role Wormley nearly doubled the previous highest snap count of his career, and his production more than doubled. While Wormley was part of the defensive struggles in run defense, he was a major asset in pass defense, ending up third on the team in sacks and 4th in pressures.
Stat line: 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defended, 51 total tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 10 QB hits.
Now it is up to you to make your selection. Who should be rated the Third-best Steeler of 2021, and who should come back to compete for 4th?
Who was the third best Steeler of 2021?
This poll is closed