Updated: Jun 20, 2021
Pro Football Focus has compiled a list of the best defensive lines in the NFL and the Steelers were spotted at the No. 1 spot, which isn‘t surprising given the bevy of elite pass rushers they have upfront.
“One would think that Pittsburgh’s defensive line is slated to take a step back after replacing Bud Dupree with Alex Highsmith. But that step might not be as large as many expect," Ben Linsey of PFF wrote.
“Highsmith finished his rookie season with a higher pass-rush win rate (16.5%) than Dupree (13.7%) last year. He joins a group that already features T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu, all of whom made PFF’s list of the top 32 players at their respective positions entering the 2021 NFL season. That group will look to match a league-leading 45.1% pressure rate in 2020.”
While Bud Dupree was a big loss in free agency, Alex Highsmith should step up and be productive. He showed a lot of promise when filling in for Dupree last season after he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 12 against the Ravens.
For the rest of the Steelers‘ front, T.J. Watt is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate and led the league in sacks (15), tackles for a loss (23) and quarterback hits (41) last year. In all reality, he should have been named DPOY over Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald by the Associated Press last year.
Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are one of the best interior defensive line duos in the league and are a handful for offensive lines to block as if you double one it will create a one-on-one matchup for the other, and chances are Heyward or Tuitt will win that matchup every time. Tyson Alualu was also impressive at nose tackle last year at the age of 33.
PFF is spot-on in their assessment of the Steelers’ defensive line, as I believe they’re the best unit in the NFL. The only team that I can see rivaling them is the Washington Football Team, who PFF properly has ranked as No. 2.