Ranking the Steelers 7 best defensive players from 2022

Who was the Steelers best defender last season?

First up, we gave you our top players on the offensive side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers and now we turn to the defense. A huge reason the Steelers were in the playoff hunt down the stretch was the play of the defense, in particular stopping the run and creating turnovers. Which defender is on top? Read on and find out.

3 Steelers free agents that the team cannot overspend on

These 3 free agents can’t get big contracts from the Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have some important free-agent decisions to make this offseason. The Steelers played so well in the second half of the 2022 season, the rebuild seems to be ahead of schedule. If the team wants to continue to move forward, here are three players the Steelers cannot invest big money into this offseason.

Grading Steelers RB Jaylen Warren’s rookie season

Jaylen Warren was the biggest surprise from the Steelers 2023 NFL draft class.

A good chunk of the NFL is made up of undrafted free agents. But for most undrafted guys, it’s a long process to make an impact on any roster. But this wasn’t the case for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren.

Warren joined the Steelers after a very successful career at Oklahoma State but it didn’t seem like Warren had much of a chance to even make the roster with Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. already in place.

But Warren proved too good to stay off the field. Warren’s quickness and explosion jumped off the screen in the preseason and even the ever-stubborn Mike Tomlin had to acknowledge this team was better with two running backs in the mix.

For the season, Warren finished with 379 rushing yards on only 77 carries. His 4.9 yards per carry was a full yard better than Harris. Warren also caught 28 passes for 216 receiving yards. We can’t wait to see What Warren does with a full year under his belt. His ceiling is so high he and Harris could form the best rushing combo in the NFL next season.

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Cast your vote and let us know what grade you give Warren for his impressive rookie season. For us, this one is easy. Warren gets an A for coming in and helping to evolve the run game. Every time Warren touched the football you held your breath because you knew there was a chance he’d take it the distance.

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2 Steelers OL rank among best in pass-rush win rate for 2022

The two new Steelers offensive linemen shined in 2022.

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By the midway point of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was openly criticized as one of the worst in the NFL. But during the bye week this group seemed to come together and ended up finishing very strong. ESPN put out its advanced stats rankings and surprisingly, two Steelers offensive linemen landed on the season Top 10 at their positions for pass block win rate.

Guard James Daniels checked in at No. 7 with a 95 percent win rate and center Mason Cole checked in at No. 10 with a 95 percent win rate. Pittsburgh signed Daniels and Cole in the offseason to help bolster a struggling unit and they each delivered on that. Daniels was the best offensive lineman on the team across the board for much of the season.

By comparison, no Steelers landed in the Top 10 at any position for run block win rate. This is somewhat surprising when you consider how strong the run game was at the end of the season but you just have to chalk it up to the shaky start by this group. In addition, neither of the Steelers starting offensive tackles, Dan Moore Jr. and Chuks Okorafor were in the Top 10 in either run or pass block win rather.

The Steelers coaches will need to evaluate the offensive line this offseason to determine which positions could benefit from an upgrade for the upcoming season.

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Steelers elect S Minkah Fitzpatrick 2022 team MVP

The team has selected Minkah Fitzpatrick to be the team MVP for 2022.

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On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced they elected free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as the team MVP for 2022. This breaks the three-year streak held by outside linebacker T.J. Watt.

Fitzpatrick has returned to form this season after being relegated to a chase-and-tackle guy all of 2021. This season Fitzpatrick is back to being that ball hawk in the middle of the field defenses have to gameplan for and fail. He leads the team with an impressive six interceptions to go along with 86 tackles and 11 passes defended.

After missing out in 2021, Fitzpatrick is having another All-Pro type of season and has really asserted himself as the best all-around safety in the AFC. The team MVP award is voted on by Fitzpatrick and his teammates.

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Steelers CB Ahkello Witherspoon returns to practice

The Steelers could be getting some help at cornerback.

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On Wednesday, injured cornerback Ahekello Witherspoon returned to practice. Witherspoon remains on IR with the designation to return and his return to practice opens up his 21-day window to come back.

Witherspoon went on IR on December 3 with a hamstring injury that had kept him out of much of the season. After leading the team in interceptions in 2021, Witherspoon signed a new contract in the offseason but has only appeared in four games.

You have to assume if the Steelers have designated him to return and opened up his 21-day window with only two games left, they are confident he can get back on the field this season. Cameron Sutton has grown into a star in Witherspoon’s absence and a rotation of cornerbacks including Levi Wallace have done well filling in. Pittsburgh traded for veteran William Jackson III at the trade deadline but he has yet to play with a back injury.

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Steelers WR George Pickens top rookie at contested catches

No rookie since 2016 has had more contested catches than George Pickens.

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Everyone in the NFL draft world knew when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted wide receiver George Pickens they were getting a steal. The former Georgia star was an absolute bargain in the second round and although the offense hasn’t been as good as advertised, Pickens has been great.

According to Pro Football Focus, Pickens has made 17 contested catches this season which ties Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf for most by a rookie since 2016. With two games left to play, Pickens should end up owning the single-season mark by himself when it’s all said and done.

For the season, Pickens has 47 catches for 700 yards and three receiving touchdowns. His three scores lead the team as well as his 14.9 yards per catch. Pickens is never going to be the guy who gets a ton of separation but his natural athleticism and innate ability to win those combat catches keep him highly productive and nearly impossible to defend.

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