5 takeaways from the Steelers-Bengals showdown

Latest takeaways from the Steelers-Bengals showdown

By: Jake Rajala

Warrior (2011)

It could be said that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals have a rivalry similar to the two brothers, Tommy and Brendan, in Warrior. It was certainly a blood-bath between Cincy and the Steelers today, too. The Steelers (somewhat surprisingly) came out with the victory over the reigning AFC Champions (Bengals) in overtime by a score of 23-20. With that enunciated, I’m going to untwine five takeaways from the Steelers-Bengals showdown.

  • T.J. Watt

T.J. Watt was one of the heroes in the Steelers victory by way of obtaining a sack and an interception. The biggest storyline for Watt is still his devasting injury that occurred in the contest. The Steelers believe he suffered a torn pectoral — which would likely place him on the sidelines for three-to-four months.

  • Joe Burrow

Did Joe Burrow drink the cool-ade this off-season? The Bengals polarizing QB ousted an absolute dreadful four interceptions on Sunday. According to ESPN, he is the second QB in the past 20 years to turn the ball over four times in the first half. His OL didn’t exactly help him – as he was sacked a whopping seven times. I still am confused that Burrow pressured himself into making countless, silly errors. The Bengals were honestly lucky to lose the AFC North showdown by only three points.

  • Ja’Marr Chase

Burrow may have been a disaster on the field today, but the other former LSU legend in Ja’Marr Chase had a quality performance (10 catches for 129 yards). The reigning Offensive Rookie of The Year also had a game-tieing TD catch with two seconds remaining.

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick

In a week where Jalen Ramsey and Marshon Lattimore looked half-asleep, the Steelers safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, played like his true self. Fitzpatrick had a pick-six on Burrow early in the showdown & he also had 14 tackles. Furthermore, Fitzpatrick blocked the extra attempt in the final moments. Fitzpatrick absolutely looks like a darkhorse DPOY candidate at this point.

  • Najee Harris

It was surprising that the Steelers won with a struggling rushing outcome by Najee Harris in Week 1. The Steelers second-year RB registered 10 rushing attempts for 23 yards. Although, he did haul in a touchdown grab from his motivated QB. Unfortunately, he will also miss game-time from an injury (as he will likely miss 2-3 games with an ankle injury).

Is Cameron Heyward a future Hall of Famer?

Will Cameron Heyward make it into Canton?

By: Jake Rajala

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward might play across from the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, but don’t lose sight of his career rampage. Heyward was First-Team All-Pro in 2017, 2019, and 2021. He was also second-team All-Pro in 2020. Furthermore, the versatile Steelers DL made the Pro Bowl in each season from 2017 to 2021.

It wasn’t a surprise that he captured First-Team All-Pro honors in 2021 – as he recorded 10 sacks, a career-high 89 combined tackles, 17 QB hits, 15 TFLs, a personal-best 9 pass deflections, and 1 interception. PFF gave the Steelers DL an unearthly 91 grade for his performance.

With that enunciated, there is a fascinating, vital question surrounding the Steelers “second-best DL”: Is Heyward a future Hall of Famer? Well, I actually don’t believe he is quite ready to be cemented as a HOF DL. Watt’s partner in crime may have unleashed fury over the prior five seasons, but he does not have the sexiest career production: 68 sacks, 153 QB hits, and 101 TFLs. He failed to make a single Pro Bowl in his first six seasons. He also doesn’t boast a Super Bowl ring, while Big Ben has two Lombardi trophies.

Nonetheless, I believe it’s certainly possible for Heyward to make it into Canton. If he wants to have a gold jacket, he should strive to have a few more Pro Bowl-caliber seasons or two more All-Pro seasons in my opinion. I do feel confident that the 33-year-old will have a few more PB seasons. He has a similar motor and work ethic as fellow aging, dominant DL Cameron Jordan. Heyward doesn’t belong in football heaven yet, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel for him to give a HOF speech.

Why Danielle Hunter is a darkhorse DPOY candidate

Danielle Hunter is a darkhorse DPOY candidate

By: Jake Rajala

The Minnesota Vikings have a Prometheus-like edge rusher in Danielle Hunter. The Vikings mythical pass rusher Jared Allen recently stated that Hunter told him that he was going to break his sack record (22). I believe that the Jamaican-born football player (Hunter) should feel very enthusiastic about his chances of unleashing 20+ sacks and a DPOY-winning season in 2022.

It was clear that Hunter was on an unearthly pace in 2021 with six sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and six tackles for loss in seven contests. His best performance unequivocally came against the Arizona Cardinals – where he unleashed three sacks, seven tackles, and two stuffs. PFF gave him a fine 80.8 grade for his 2021 performance.

Hunter will not only be healthy, but he will also be licking his chops against weak divisional foes (such as CHI and DET). He was mopping the floor against his competition last season, yet he only played one game against the Lions and zero contests against the Bears. Similar to Aaron Donald in his latest DPOY-winning campaign, the Vikings edge rusher should look to rack up his stats against CHI and DET in the near future. Let’s not forget that Hunter has a thing or two for proving to A-Rod that he didn’t see the light until he was already a man.

Hunter will not only benefit from staying on the field and going into John Wick-mode against his archnemesis, but I also foresee the Vikings passing offense to actually help Hunter, as well. I expect the Vikings new-look passing attack w/ a healthy Irv Smith Jr. to really light up the scoreboard – which should force opposing signal-callers to aim to keep pace with Captain Kirk. Hence, Hunter will have a plethora of moments to pin his ears back and unveil unusual sack figures.

The Vikings blood-thirsty pass rusher plays the golden position (edge rusher) to win DPOY, too. Of course, T.J. Watt won DPOY last season (after tying Michael Strahan’s sack record of 22.5 sacks). It should be noted that Football Outsiders feels the odds are stacked against Watt repeating his 2021 DPOY feat. I also believe the 31-year-old Aaron Donald, who is still arguably one of the Mount Rushmore defenders, to not win DPOY (for the second year in a row) if a pass rusher has at least very close to a record-breaking sack season w/ other top-tier edge-rushing statistics in 2022. Allen and John Randle defied expectations in their Vikings journey. Perhaps Hunter can climb mountains and take an unexpected leap towards defensive gold next season.

3 reasons why Micah Parsons could win DPOY

Parsons could win DPOY in 2022

By: Jake Rajala

The Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons unleashed 13 sacks, 30 QB hits, 3 FF, and 84 combined tackles — which led him to win DROY. Parsons’s rookie season garnered him comparisons to the legendary Lawrence Taylor — who was named first-team All-Pro and won DPOY as a rookie. With that said, I’m going to sound the trumpets for three reasons why Parsons can take a step forward and win DPOY next season.

  • Strength of schedule

The Boys should feel very excited about their 31st-ranked strength of schedule next season. Parsons should plan on mopping the floor in each match-up. Aaron Donald really capitalized off pedestrian competition in his last DPOY campaign, so Parsons shouldn’t feel guilty about racking up the stats against weak competition. Parsons should anticipate being able to dominate against the Carson Wentz-led Commanders and young, rebuilding Giants next season.

  • Growth

Parsons gained a year of experience and he should be able to react faster in his sophomore season. The Cowboys LB is also a workaholic, as he worked out with Demarcus Ware this off-season. Per SI, Parsons stated, “It’s going to be more challenging. But I never back down from a challenge”. Perhaps Parsons is actually ready to be an LB that embodies a 99 overall grade on Madden.

  • Aging Aaron Donald

The highest-paid non-QB in NFL history, Aaron Donald, has won DPOY in three of the past five seasons. Donald was an All-Pro player in 2021, but he didn’t win DPOY. In fact, Parsons (5) snagged more votes than the 31-year-old Donald (3 votes) last season. I believe Parsons is trending in the opposite direction as Donald. With that said, it may be a close race between Parsons and T.J. Watt for DPOY honors.

Is T.J. Watt a future first-ballot Hall of Famer right now?

Is T.J. Watt a future hall of fame already?

By: Jake Rajala

The Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s sack record (22.5) and won the defensive player of the year award last season. It should also be noted that Watt recorded 22.5 sacks in 17 games 15 games. It’s clear that the second Watt brother to win DPOY has cemented himself as a mythical football figure. There is already a mighty question that many Steelers fans have regarding the 27-year-old pass rusher: Is T.J. Watt already a future first-ballot Hall of Famer? Well, I will unveil his career production and conclude if his current resume is impressive enough to make it as a first-ballot HOF at this moment.

Watt has been an All-Pro player in each of the past three seasons. The four-time Pro Bowl selection also has 72.5 career sacks, 150 QB hits, and 80 career tackles for loss. Watt and his older brother in Arizona are still seeking the elusive Super Bowl ring.

I believe Demarcus Ware has a very fascinating career comparison to Watt right now. The former Cowboys legendary sack artist had 138.5 career sacks, two seasons of 19.5+ sacks, and he made four All-Pro teams in his career. Unfortunately, Ware did NOT make the Hall of Fame in his first year of HOF eligibility (2022).

Watt has 1 DPOY award, while Ware has 0 DPOY awards. The two pass rushers have the same number of All-Pro honors and they both have been consistently superb in sacking the QB at this point. Ware actually has an upper hand on Watt in a pivotal category: Super Bowl victories. Ware has a Super Bowl ring, while Watt hasn’t won a SB thus far. Ware also notched two sacks and five tackles in the SB.

I honestly don’t believe Watt is the first-ballot HOF yet. If Watt can have two or three more All-Pro seasons, or win another DPOY (while making another All-Pro team), I believe the reigning DPOY should join Aaron Donald as a sure-fire first-ballot HOF. His fellow DL teammate Cameron Heyward is still playing at a high level at 32 years old (10 sacks in 2021) and I expect the “highest-paid defensive player in the league” to continue to prove every penny of his hefty contract. When the younger Watt on the Steelers retires, he should be another greek god-like Steeler to wind up as a first-ballot HOF.

Why the Steelers should really trade up for Kavyon Thibodeaux

The Steelers should prioritize Kavyon Thibodeaux

By: Jake Rajala

The Pittsburgh Steelers featured the 2021 Defensive Player of The Year T.J. Watt. What if the Steelers brought in Kavyon Thibodeaux, who recently clocked a 4.65, to play next to Watt and Cameron Heyward? I believe the AFC conference that features so many prominent quarterbacks like Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Josh Allen, would be scared at that sight.

The draft pick of Kavyon wouldn’t only be exciting because he has an elite grade and he could play next to Watt, but the Steelers could also cut Stephon Tuitt, who carries a $13.9 million cap hit. The Steelers led the league in sacks last season, but the expensive Tuitt played a mere zero games. Kavyon would be a monster replacement for Tuitt.

I also would like to see the Steelers priorize signing a QB like Marcus Mariota or even Tyrod Taylor to compete with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins. Mariota can certainly be an upgrade over the 2021 version of Ben Roethlisberger, especially with the weapons he will have in Chase Claypool, Dionate Johnson, and Najee Harris. Tomlin has also stated that he wants an athletic QB.

The Steelers have been favored to trade up to select a QB like Sam Howell or Malik Willis. Instead, they should trade up to select a defensive player that can shake the NFL in a way that Micah Parsons did in 2021. Kavyon is a gifted DE that can chase down RBs and beat pass blockers with strength. He would have incredible matchups with Watt and Heyward on the defensive front, too. We witnessed the LA Rams win the Super Bowl largely because of Aaron Donald and Von Miller demolishing offenses side by side.

Kavyon reminds me a lot of Marcus Davenport of the New Orleans Saints. Davenport was one of the best edge rushers per snap in 2021, but injuries haunted him. Kavyon also has the rare power that Myles Garrett displays on the Browns. If Kavyon has the production of Garrett early in his career, they could unleash a defense similar to the Legion of Boom or the Von Miller-led defense in 2015.

It might be dreamy to imagine a QB like Malik Willis as the next Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson, but it not be the best choice for the Steelers. I believe that a rookie QB will also take more time to develop at the pro level than Kavyon. The Steelers might have lost Big Ben, but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that the Steelers are built to “win now”. They can get the gold with their defense leading the charge. The Bucs defense stifled Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV and the Rams lit up Joe Burrow in Super Bowl LVI.

Watt and Heyward in their prime, while their offense has many weapons content together at the moment. They should add a talented QB that can take care of the football like Mariota in free agency, while they address a “need” position by inking a profile that’s listed as the fourth best overall draft profile by Pro Football Focus and best overall prospect by CBS Sports.

Potential landing spots for Chandler Jones in 2022

What is the best landing spot for Chandler Jones?

The elite pass rusher Chandler Jones enters an interesting period in his career. The two-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowl pass rusher, and one-time Super Bowl champion is a 2022 free agent and it’s clear he will have plenty of interest this offseason. Here is a look at how special Jones has been in his career thus far:

*stats are according to Pro Football Reference

  • 107.5 career sacks
  • seven seasons of 10+ sacks
  • 19 sacks in 2019 (single-season career high)
  • NFC Defensive Player of The Year in 2019

Jones has been a force to be reckoned with at every point of his career thus far. The question is: where his next destination be? Here are the potential landing spots for the former 21st overall pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the tenth most cap space in the league and they have the Hulk, also known as T.J. Watt. Jones could be tired of playing with J.J. Watt and move to play with the new and improved Watt. The Steelers have the money to tempt Jones to wreak havoc across from T.J. and Cameron Hayward in the AFC.

The Steelers led the NFL in sacks last season and they could look to build on it with Jones and potentially create the most superb pass rush of all time. The days of the Steel curtain and the James Harrison-led defense might be in the review mirror, but Mike Tomlin can bring the team back to its roots in 2022. The Steelers are truly a team capable of making the playoffs in the near future, especially if they add a quality QB. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals may not have Kyler Murray, so Jones (and J.J. Watt) may not be thrilled to play in AZ for potentially the rest of his career.

Miami Dolphins

The Mike McDaniels-led Miami Dolphins have swag and the most cap in the NFL. The Dolphins could add a new toy to join Jaylen Waddle for Tua Tagovailoa and they can swing big for a few other free agents. Life won’t get easier for the Dolphins in the AFC East, as they frequently play Josh Allen, Mac Jones, and the young Zach Wilson.

Florida is another relaxing state for Jones to consider living in. Jones could also be a big fan of the second-half success he witnessed the Dolphins have. The combination of talent, location, and money could help Jones ink a massive deal with the Dolphins. Jones would be the second future Hall of Fame DL to sign with the Dolphins over the past several years (Ndamukong Suh being the other).

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals could soon ink a few more big profiles in a similar way that the Los Angeles Rams did last season. The Rams signed Von Miller to play with Aaron Donald and now it could be time for Cincy to add Jones to play with Trey Hendrickson (14 sacks in 2021). The Bengals have the resources (fourth in cap space) to make Jones very tempted to sign with the 2021 AFC champions.

The Bengals may have 2021 Offensive Rookie of The Year Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow, but they shouldn’t take the gas off the pedal. There’s been a reoccurring theme of “dynasty” teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs taking a step back after getting to the Super Bowl. Zac Taylor could really capitalize off Trey Hendrickson’s prime years and the WR band being together (Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins) by bringing in an elite defender like Jones this offseason.

Dante Fowler Jr. released: Top destinations for Fowler Jr.

Where will Fowler Jr. play next?

By: Jake Rajala

The Atlanta Falcons released Dante Fowler Jr. and it’s clear that Fowler Jr. has had a disappointing career after being selected third overall in the 2015 NFL draft. The former Top 3 draft pick had a career season in 2019 as a Los Angeles Ram, as he recorded 11.5 sacks. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to reclaim stardom in 2020 (3 sacks) or 2021 (4.5 sacks).

Fowler Jr. didn’t live up to his three year, $45 million dollar contract, but the Falcons are also striving to open up lots of cap space. They hold a talented quarterback in Matt Ryan who will be the NFL’s highest paid player this offseason. The Falcons could decide to free up cap space, restructure Ryan’s deal, and be contempt with keeping him.

The next chapter of Fowler’s journey won’t be on the Falcons, nonetheless. The 27 year old will be on the search for a new home. Fowler Jr. may be we wise to chase a prove it deal with a talented team. With that said, what are the top landing spots for Fowler Jr.? Well, here are a few teams that would make a ton of sense to ink the former Falcon.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs and AFC West champions need more juice from their pass rush. Melvin Ingram (1 sack in 2021) is not the partner in crime Chris Jones deserves. The soon to be 33-year-old edge rusher is also facing free agency in 2022. The Chiefs will likely not have the money to strike big on Von Miller or Chandler Jones (20th in cap space), but they could have a great value player in the former Top 3 draft pick.

Fowler Jr. would have plenty of opportunities to chase QBs that are forced to match points with Patrick Mahomes. He would also have a lot of opportunities playing next to Chris Jones and it’s safe to say that Fowler played at his best next to the elite Aaron Donald in LA.

Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was Dante Fowler Jr.’s coach in Jacksonville, so he has strong familiarity and interest in the FA edge rusher. Bradley could really use pass rush help on his team that ranked 26th in sacks last season and 17th in passing YPG allowed. DeForest Buckner (7 sacks in 2021) needs more explosion next to him.

The Colts could look at pass rush help next to Kwity Paye (four sacks in 2021) and Al-Quadin Muhammed (six sacks in 2021) this offseason. The Colts are also seventh in cap space, so they could really afford to take a sharp look at Fowler Jr. and other free agents of interest.

Los Angeles Rams

The LA Rams could call their ex-pass rusher and see if he wants to return to Sean McVay’s lab and chase another Super Bowl trophy. Fowler Jr. could return to the dreamy city and really aim to build off an impressive Rams tenure. The Rams could lose free agent Von Miller (two sacks in Super Bowl LVI/115.5 career sacks) this offseason. It would seem like a smart fit for Fowler Jr. to fill in the shoes of Miller and return to wrecking havoc next to Aaron Donald.

The Rams present a strong destination to Fowler due to the familiarity aspect, fit, and winning attitude that attracts any professional football player.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are honestly in cap hell, but I love the idea of Fowler Jr. playing in New Orleans. They have Tonah Kpassagnon behind Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, but I believe the ceiling of Fowler Jr. is too tempting for Mickey Loomis to overlook.

The insanely talented and injury prone Davenport will be a pricey free agent in 2023 and the regular Pro Bowl Jordan will be 33 years old this offseason. They lost Trey Hendrickson to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021, so the three headed monster broke up. Fowler Jr. wouldn’t only help the Saints create a lethal pass rushing combination, but he could very likely be a long term starter in New Orleans. If Fowler Jr. has a modest season, they could elect to not bring back Davenport in 2023, or cut ties with Jordan in 2023. In reality, the cap-strapped Saints will have to get creative with free agent targets this offseason. Fowler Jr. could be a fantastic addition, as they look to win a Super Bowl with their many stars in their prime together.

Honorable mentions:

Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders were sixth in passing YPG in 2021, but 21st in sacks last season. They need more help with from Mad Max (Maxx Crosby) and Yannick Ngakoue. Crosby and Ngakoue are also free agents in 2023. It would seem unlikely that they can afford both pass rushers will should likely demand monster deals. They could be excited about the possibility of adding a talented and highly motivated Fowler Jr. on a short term deal. It would be a lower risk and cheaper acquisition from Josh McDaniel’s view.

The Raiders play Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert four in four matchups a season for a long time. They could have Fowler Jr. helping their pass rush get more takedowns on the young quarterbacks if he turns around his performance in 2022.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2021 Defensive Player of The Year T.J. Watt showed that even he needs more help to slow down Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. The Steelers got poured on by Mahomes in both matchups this past season. The KC Chiefs beat the Steelers 36-10 in their first regular season matchup and then continued their dominance in the second battle royal, as they won 42-21 in the wildcard weekend.

The Steelers are ranked 10th in cap space (roughly $31 million), so they can get creative with targeting a much needed QB and pass rush help opposite Watt. If they don’t bring back JuJu Smith Schuster, they could especially target a defender in the front seven. Fowler Jr. would have to be mouth watering at the idea of playing across from Watt and Cameron Heyward on the inside. The Steelers won’t be an ideal landing spot for some of top free agents at pass rusher or any position, but they could benefit from talent profiles on prove it deals.

2022 NFL award predictions: who will win MVP?

Latest 2022 NFL Award predictions

By: Andy Davies, Jake Rajala, and Jeremy Trottier

The 2021 NFL season is almost over. We now know the Super Bowl 56 matchup as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Los Angeles Rams in L.A.

This is one of the more refreshing quarterback matchups in recent Super Bowl history, with neither the Bengals’ Joe Burrow or the Rams’ Matthew Stafford having won a Super Bowl. In fact the Bengals have never won it and the Rams have only done so once.

NFL fans who have gotten so used to seeing the newly retired Tom Brady in the game and the frustration of seeing the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game every season, this offers fans a nice changeup and one that guarantees someone to win their first ring.

It has been one of the best NFL seasons in recent memory. From the brilliant Week 18 overtime clash between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders to the game of the year between the Buffalo Bills and Chiefs, it has been a campaign for the ages. Here at Pro Football Mania, a few of us have decided to give you our end of season awards.

Best Game: Buccaneers vs Bills in Week 14 (Jake Rajala)

There were many special football games in the 2021 regular season, but the clear winner has to be the Buccaneers matchup with the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen was prolific with 417 total yards and three touchdowns, while TB12 had 369 passing yards and three total touchdowns. Each team had 460+ total yards and roughly 32 minutes of possession. 

The Bucs claimed a massive victory in overtime. The Bills won the coin toss, but the Bucs defense forced a punt and awarded Brady a chance to lead his team down the field. On 3rd and 1, Leonard Fournette picked up the first down by inches. After that play, Mike Evans drew a pass interference call near midfield. It seemed like the game would be over at that point. The Bucs dink and dunked into good field goal range and the Bucs kicked a field goal to win in overtime. 

Biggest Disappointment- Baltimore Ravens (Jake Rajala)

I’m not sure if enough fans know that the Baltimore Ravens and NOT the Cleveland Browns were the last team in the AFC North last year. The Ravens took a sad step back in 2021 after reaching the playoffs in 2020. The golden opponent for the Kansas City Chiefs was once the Baltimore Ravens and now it seems clear that it’s the Cincinnati Bengals or Buffalo Bills. 

The 8-9 squad has turned a blind eye to the aid of Lamar Jackson in the passing game. If Aaron Rodgers threatens a vacation to Hawaii with the help he’s given at wide receiver, Lamar Jackson should contemplate backpacking Europe for the talent he’s supplied at the WR position. The 25-year-old Jackson is slowly fading away from the cream of the crop QB position and Jon Harbaugh needs to figure out how he can help Jackson and the Ravens before his clout for winning Super Bowl XLVII dies off. 

MVP: Aaron Rodgers- QB- Green Bay Packers (Jake Rajala)

Aaron Rodgers needs to be the MVP favorite after his 2021 performance. Rodgers may have thrown for fewer touchdowns and yards than Tom Brady, but he was more efficient and more impressive in big moments than the Buccaneers seven-time Super Bowl champion. Sports Illustrated nicely noted how Rodgers would have thrown for more touchdowns and passing yards if he had the same passing attempts as TB12. The Packers and Buccaneers both accumulated a 13-4 record, but the two QBs don’t share the same record as starting QBs in 2021. Rodgers only lost two games as a starting QB, while Brady lost four games as a starting QB. The Buccaneers ageless QB was also shut out against the Taysom Hill-led New Orleans Saints on December 19th. 

Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp- WR- Los Angeles Rams (Andy Davies)

A huge honorable mention goes to Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. He had an excellent season, with 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. However, Kupp has been pivotal in the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl. Someone who was dearly missed in their Super Bowl 53 loss to the New England Patriots, he caught for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season as well as 386 yards and four touchdowns in the postseason. He is also an MVP candidate and he has been a key part in the Rams’ season. The MVP is a QB’s award, which is worth noting.

Defensive Player of the Year- T.J. Watt- LB- Pittsburgh Steelers (Jake Rajala)

It’s time for J.J. Watt’s little bro to claim his prolific glory and carve a fine path for Canton. Watt should be the clear winner for the 2020 Defensive Player of The Year. Watt was barely edged out by Aaron Donald in 2020, but he made sure that didn’t happen to him in 2021. 

Watt tied Michael Strahan’s sack record (22.5 sacks) in 15 games, which might surprise people. He also had five forced fumbles and he was a fierce run-stopper routinely. I don’t think there’s a close competitor for the 2021 DPOY award. The Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons was a menace against the run and pass, but he wasn’t playing on a historic level. Expect the Watt brother who plays defense for the Steelers to win a DPOY trophy next weekend.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase- WR- Cincinnati Bengals (Andy Davies)

When the Bengals took Chase fifth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, many felt that they should have gone down the offensive line route, notably Penei Sewell. However, this season has proved that Chase was absolutely the right pick. The offensive line is definitely a position they need to upgrade in the offseason but they have reached the Super Bowl in Chase’s first season whilst he also broke records for most yards in a rookie campaign. Chase is a special football player and he is the clear favorite to win OROY.

Mac Jones and Jaylen Waddle performed excellently but Chase has been on a different level. He has been one of the best wide receivers in the league, rookie or not.

DROY: Micah Parsons – LB – Dallas Cowboys (Jeremy Trottier)

The defensive rookie of the year in our award predictions is Micah Parsons, to essentially no ones surprise.  The heavy odds on favorite at -10000 from the Dallas Cowboys is as clear cut as it gets for awards, after a phenomenal rookie season overall.  The rookie linebacker out of Penn State had one of the most impressive defensive rookie seasons in recent memory and was an absolute force on the Dallas defense.  After being drafted to be a true linebacker at the time, Parsons proved his utility as an edge was also extremely effective, racking up a huge sack total of 13 on the season.  His stat line looked like the following:

16 games played (all 16 started)

84 tackles (64 solo, 20 assisted)

20 TFL, 30 QB hits, 13 sacks, 3 forced fumbled, 3 passes deflected

All-pro first team & pro bowler when it comes down to it, Micah was far and away from the best rookie defender this season, despite strong performances from Patrick Surtain and Odafe Oweh.  If this success continues, Dallas could have a perennial pro bowl talent on their roster for years to come.

Best touchdown: Deebo Samuel 83-yard house call @Chicago (Jeremy Trottier)

The best touchdown of the year is one that could be seen as a few different ones, three other plays in consideration were:

Derrick Henry’s 76 yard run against Buffalo

Jonathan Taylor’s 78 yard run against New York. 

Jakeem Grant’s 97 yard punt return touchdown against Green Bay

However, Deebo Samuel had an insanely impressive 83 yard touchdown against the Bears, which was the third-longest reception of the year, and second-longest receiving touchdown as well.  Overall this was just one of the most exhilarating plays to watch all season, from one of the more impressive players all season as well.  It seems easiest just to let the play do the talking.

Biggest Surprise: Deebo Samuel – WR – San Francisco 49ers (Jeremy Trottier)

This award came down to two players, and I am sure we all know who they are.  Deebo Samuel, WR of the 49ers, and Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR of the Atlanta Falcons.  While Cordarrelle Patterson was certainly a surprise and was a great player all season for Atlanta, Deebo just exceeded expectations a little bit more and was the catalyst to the 49ers deep playoff run this season.

Deebo had a total of 1405 receiving yards this season, averaging a league high 18.2 yards per catch and ended up with 6 receiving touchdowns.  On top of that, he also had 59 rushing attempts for 365 yards (6.2 YPA) and 8 touchdowns, making him one of the most lethal players from scrimmage all season.  For a receiver who only had 1193 receiving yards combined in his first two seasons, he really broke away this season and became a true top receiver in the NFL.  

Comeback Player of the Year: Dak Prescott – QB – Dallas Cowboys (Jeremy Trottier)

This award on our list is comeback player of the year, which came down to two players as well, and mostly was a grade on the word comeback more than anything.  The other option for this award is Joe Burrow, who obviously had a phenomenal season and has led his Bengals to the Super Bowl in 2021-2022.  However, this is not necessarily a “comeback” as he did not play in the NFL before the 2020-2021 season, so we did not really see it as a comeback but more a beginning.  

Dak Prescott on the other hand continued to be one of the best QBs in the NFL, producing 4,449 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, on 68.8% completion percentage and a 104.2 quarterback rating.  Overall, an amazing season coming off what was one of the more gruesome injuries of the 2020-2021 season, and an awe-inspiring feel good story to go along with it. 

Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel (Andy Davies) 

The Bengals’ Zac Taylor and Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur deserve huge credit but Vrabel did something quite remarkable. The Titans head coach lost star running back Derrick Henry in Week 8 but still managed to win games and earn the number one seed in the

Vrabel managed to guide this team to the division and top seed despite injury after injury that saw them have the most players used in a single season.

You have to credit the job done by Vrabel, who may have guided Tennesee further had he had Henry fully healthy and a roster that hadn’t suffered injury after injury.

Why the Pittsburgh Steelers are still Super Bowl contenders for 2021

The 2021 Steelers team is still a real Super Bowl contender

By: Jeremy Trottier

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a relatively interesting position after the 2020-2021 season.  Odds are Ben Roethlisberger will retire after this season, based on his previous injuries as well as his age and contract.  After a first round exit in last season’s playoffs, they likely will be trying to go all in on this season to make a push to give big Ben a proper sendoff.  In this article, I will be going over three reasons as to why the Pittsburgh Steelers are still contending for a Super Bowl in the 2021-2022 season.

Top Defense in the League

One of the biggest selling points for the Steelers as of the last few seasons is how phenomenal their defense has continually been.  In 2020 they finished with the best DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), at a total of -20.2% (DVOA has a lowest = best standard).  This was 1.2% ahead of second place which was New Orleans at -19.0%.  Another stat that is impressive towards this notion is they only gave up the third least amount of yards over the course of the regular season, at 4,893 yards (20 behind 2nd place).  

They also ended up tied for first in most interceptions taken away from opponents at 18 (tied with New Orleans, Miami, and New England).  Overall, this defense is one of the if not the best currently in the NFL, which hugely helps the Steelers chances at making a run for the deep playoffs.  As we saw this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to succeed so much due to an extremely potent defense, alongside a quality offense.  

Skill Position Talent

The Steelers have really improved their skill positions in the last few seasons, with additions like Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, Eric Ebron, and more in the past few offseasons.  Adding these players on top of others like Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington allow them to really give Ben Roethlisberger a chance to just get the ball to playmakers and let them do the work. 

The addition of Najee Harris cannot be overlooked, despite the Steelers need for IOL.  Najee is an extremely talented back based on what we all saw at the college level from him, and if he can continue this at the NFL level, the Steelers should have their new elite playmaker.  Pat Freiermuth is also a very solid pickup, ranked by most as the number two tight end in the class his receiving abilities add to an already stout passing attack.

The Offensive Line Additions

One of the biggest gaps people have been pointing to on this Steelers roster is the offensive line, as they lost a lot of their starters this offseason.  With that said, they have the players along this line to hold up when needed.  Going from left to right, they have at LT presumably Zach Banner, who despite only playing 59 snaps in 2020, allowed zero sacks and had no penalties.  He played in 14 games only a season ago as well for the Cleveland Browns, so he has some experience.

At left guard they have Trai Turner, probably the most solidified and high quality member of the line, has started 89 of 93 games he has played in, and has been a very solid member of the teams he has played for so far.  At C, presumably the sophomore from Alabama will get the start in J.C. Hassenauer, who despite being an UDFA, got four starts in his 2020 rookie debut and gave up no sacks in all his snaps.  He does need to work on penalties, as he had five in his four starts, but that is able to be worked on.  Another sophomore at LG is Kevin Dotson, the 6’4” 321 pound monster out of University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  A 4th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, he also got 4 starts in 13 games, allowing 0 sacks and only having three penalties, as well as a 66.2 PFF grade, which despite not being the be all end all of how good a player is, it has a lot of good factors going into it.  Finally, at RT, Chukwuma Okorafor, one of my personal favorites to really show up in 2021.  At 6’6” 320 pounds, his frame is absolutely perfect to be a tackle, and he has an innate ability to anchor down and stop rushers in their tracks.  This will be huge for Najee Harris as a gap rusher, because Okorafor will be able to create those gaps for him. 

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