Kinsey went all defense for the Steelers, choosing edge rusher TJ Watt, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, and defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and wide receiver Diontae Johnson just missed Kinsey’s list.
Most of the Steelers’ elite talent resides on their defense, namely Watt, Heyward and Fitzpatrick. Watt and Heyward both rank among the top-three players at their respective position in quarterback pressures over the last three seasons while also playing the run at a high level. Add in Fitzpatrick’s 11 interceptions and 17 forced incompletions over the last three seasons, and Pittsburgh has one of the best defensive cores in the league entering the 2022 season.
The Steelers’ defense will be their strength in 2022 so it’s no surprise that Pro Football Focus believes their three best players are on the defensive side of the ball (though I’m sure Diontae Johnson would love to prove that he deserves to be on the list).
Watt, specifically, is a bonafide superstar that can take over an NFL game. His 2021 season was one of the best seasons ever by a pass rusher. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record (22.5) in the final week of the season. His 22.5 sacks are even more impressive when you consider that he missed two games (Watt played in 15 games, one less game than Strahan in 2001 when he set the sack record) and battled a groin injury throughout the season. A fully healthy Watt could obliterate the sack record in 2022 if he plays in all 17 games.
Fitzpatrick and Heyward are just as important to Pittsburgh’s success. Heyward is an imposing figure on the Steelers’ defensive line, while Fitzpatrick has a Troy Polamalu-like impact on Pittsburgh’s secondary.
A lot of folks are sleeping on the Steelers in 2022 — thanks to the emergence of the Cincinnati Bengals — but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pittsburgh end up being a major factor in the AFC North this season.
Featured image via Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports