AFC North round-up: Top-5 players on Baltimore Ravens, other’s roster
The title of best defensive player in the AFC North goes to Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro, do-it-all linebacker, T.J. Watt. Watt has accumulated 34.5 sacks over his first three NFL seasons, including a career-best 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles last season. Watt was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year for his masterful 2019 season and he looks like he can only become even greater.
Truthfully, Minkah Fitzpatrick would’ve been my vote for Defensive Player of the Year last season. After a rough start to his 2019 season in Miami, the Dolphins shipped Fitzpatrick to the Steel City for a 2020 first-round draft choice. Fitzpatrick proved his worth immediately by recording five interceptions and putting fear into opposing quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick made the Steelers defense an elite unit and the secondary will be great because of him alone.
JuJu Smith-Schuster had a down year in 2019, but it’s hard to blame him considering he battled injuries and terrible quarterback play holding him back. He’s only a year removed from a 111/1,426/7 stat line in 2018 and he’s one of the NFL’s most prolific receivers before turning 24-years old in league history. JJSS has a legit chance to claim the title of being the AFC North’s best receiver in 2020 as he looks to get paid the big bucks this offseason. He’s as surehanded as they come and will repair his image after a forgettable 2019 campaign.
Cameron Heyward is one of the most underappreciated defensive players throughout the entire league. Heyward has earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2017-2019 and has also gotten two First-Team All-Pro selections in 2017 and 2019. Heyward is a vocal leader and a sound defender that Steelers fans have come to love. He may be overlooked, but he’s one of the AFC North’s top defensive linemen.
Joe Haden was someone I also picked instead of Big Ben, but the future Hall of Fame quarterback is so incredibly valuable to this team even in the twilight of his career. Pittsburgh’s offense stunk in 2019 to put it politely, and it’s no coincidence that Roethlisberger missed almost the entire season with an elbow injury. If he’s back to even 80% of what he was in 2018 the Steelers are true contenders in the AFC North. So long as this team has Big Ben, they’ll be a thorn in the side of all teams in the AFC as a whole.