1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety
Minkah Fitzpatrick is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who plays safety for the Steelers and disrupts the passing game. Fitzpatrick is allegedly a free safety but in reality, plays all over the field and may play in the box on some plays and even blitz Deshaun Watson a few times.
Last season, he had 124 total tackles, which is a huge number for a linebacker, and absolutely sensational for a free safety. This season, he has 86 total tackles, his second-best season total. He has six interceptions on the season so far. That puts him in a four-way tie for first place in the NFL in that department.
Those incredible stats are reminiscent of the numbers of retired Steeler great Troy Polamalu, who used to appear in different spots in the Steeler defense, though nominally he was a strong safety.
Prior to the start of the season, Fitzpatrick managed to sign a $73.6 million contract extension with the Steelers, for four years. Obviously, he is another player that they expect to have an impact comparable to a quarterback. To some extent the gambling community agrees with this assessment, as Betsided is saying that the over/under for this game is only 40.5 points.
Other defensive stars on the Steelers include 3-4 defensive end Cameron Heyward (another five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro who seems to have set down roots in Pittsburgh somehow; linebacker/edge rusher Alex Highsmith; and cornerback Cameron Sutton. This is a very solid defensive unit.
For those who say that you need to have a superstar quarterback to make the playoffs, maybe defensive stars can help you get there also. Right now only the Cleveland Browns stand between the Steelers and the playoffs.
Pittsburgh had a terrible start, but they appear to have righted the ship after key defensive players got healthy, and the offense started doing nothing much except not turn the ball over. That combination wasn’t pretty but it was enough to win.