Steel City Underground presents the 4th annual SCU Awards. Our panel of contributors voted on various awards for the Pittsburgh Steelers based on their performances during the 2019-20 NFL season. Comment and let us know if you agree or disagree with our winners and nominees.
With the resurgence of big defense in Pittsburgh after a couple of years that left fans concerned, the 2019 season opened the door for several players to be nominated as both the Defensive Player of the Year and the Defensive MVP. The nominees are players that showed improvement, leadership, and proved integral to the success of the team defensively.
Defensive Player of the Year Winner: T.J. Watt
Ahead of the official announcements by the NFL, Associated Press, and various other sports outlets who give this award, SCU contributor Noah Freeman wrote a detailed piece about why Watt should be considered the consensus DPOY.
"It was just a few years ago that Pittsburgh fans were concerned that the Steelers drafted one, TJ Watt, too early in the 2017 draft or that they took him because of his last name," Freeman wrote."Little did anyone know that in his 3rd year in the NFL, the star outside linebacker would be considered for the Defensive Player of the Year Award and a frontrunner."
Terry Fletcher was among the panel who votes and wrote, "In seeing the AP voting (and that Watt took third), I'm not sure what their criteria were. If not T.J., I'd have to split the award (between) Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden."
Her reasoning? "From the moment Minkah stepped on the field after that trade, he was not only the playmaker (the Steelers needed) to string some wins together but he made Joe Haden (in the defensive backfield) more effective since he didn't have to cover the entire field. Joe became the CEO in that DB zone and Minkah was his manager."
While Watt also received votes from four members of the panel, it was Bud Dupree who got the nod for DPOY from Ben Beberman. "My DPOY would be Bud due to his breakout," wrote Beberman. "(Bud) helped the pass rush and created a true pass-rush duo this season with Watt."
Defensive MVP Winner: Minkah Fitzpatrick
While Dupree's name came up once again in voting for the Steelers' Defensive MVP, it was Fitzpatrick who earned the majority of votes.
"Bud’s emergence not only catapulted the defense into the top 5 of the league but helped free Watt and Heyward of some of the double teams, allowing them to pin their ears back and play with their hair on fire," said Overly in his vote discussion.
"As we all saw, this defense changed as soon as Minkah arrived," wrote Lippert. "(The Steelers) finally got the ball-hawking safety that we needed in the back end of this defense as he finished tied for second in the league with five interceptions. If it weren’t for a small decline in production down the stretch, I believe he would’ve been right in the NFL DPOY discussion as well."
"Minkah by a landslide," wrote Freeman when submitting his vote. "The Steelers defense had so many pieces the past few years. After fixing a few leaky holes in the secondary and a major upgrade with Devin Bush, every player was able to shine when Minkah came to the team. It was like that last piece of the puzzle, and everything could just flourish. Devin Bush (was) a closer second (in MVP voting) with his immediate impact, as a rookie no less."
Stay tuned for the next SCU Award nominees and winners.
The panel who voted consisted of Derek Overly, Terry Fletcher, Ryan Lippert, Noah Freeman, Christina Rivers, and Ben Beberman.