Steel City Underground’s 2023 Steelers Awards: Defense

Steel City Underground presents their annual postseason awards to members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who had outstanding performances during the 2023 NFL regular season.

Every year, Steel City Underground does a postseason analysis of players who stood out in different categories in order to award those performances. This year’s defense awards were carefully considered based on statistics, the eye test, and individual contributions given by the award winner to the team as a whole during the 2023 NFL regular season.

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Takedown artist award

2023 proved to be another year of adjusting to adversity due to injuries on defense. Linebacker Elandon Roberts, in his first season with Pittsburgh, experienced his own bumps and bruises yet led the Steelers defense in total tackles in just 16 regular season games.

Roberts logged 101 combined tackles, 69 solo, outpacing the field. Brought in to help solidify the middle of the Steelers defense, especially against the run, Roberts also recorded 2.5 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, and 6 quarterback hits.

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Sack attack award

After the year T.J. Watt put together, he made it very easy to give him our award for regular season sacks. Watt recorded a total of 19.0 quarterback sacks in 2023 and set the new Steelers franchise record (surpassing James Harrison) during the team’s first game of the series against the Cleveland Browns.

In that same game, Watt scooped up a fumbled ball, caused by teammate Alex Highsmith, and scored a defensive touchdown.

On the season, Watt added 48 solo tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 36 quarterback hits, one interception, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Watt led the league in sacks for the third time in his career. Despite his achievements, Watt was snubbed when it came to being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

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Rookie standout award

Pittsburgh didn’t field just one rookie on defense during the 2023 regular season, but Joey Porter Jr. stood out due, in part, to his ability to lock down opposing receivers and make opposing quarterbacks think harder about testing him.

Porter recorded just a single interception in 17 regular season games, but ranked third on the team with 10 pass defenses behind only Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace.

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Disruptor award

The most disruptive defensive player for Pittsburgh was Alex Highsmith due to his 7.0 sacks (second on the team), 18 quarterback hits, eight tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions.

Highsmith has steadily improved his game at outside linebacker/edge opposite Watt, bulldozing left tackles while keeping opposing quarterbacks on their toes.

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