The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have two of the best players in the league on defense.  Minkah Fitzpatrick and TJ Watt are each among the very best at their positions.  So the question is, which of these two are the best Steelers defensive player?  Let’s make the case for each one:

TJ Watt:

TJ Watt has become one of, if not the best pass rusher in the NFL.  He already has nearly 50 sacks in his first four years in the league.  Two of those years have been as an All-Pro recipient.  His 2020 season consisted of 15 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, and a whopping 41 quarterback hits.  There is a very good argument Watt rightfully should have won the defensive player of the year award two years running now.

What may give TJ Watt the edge for Steelers best defensive player is the position he now dominates.  Edge rusher is among the few premier positions in the NFL along with quarterback and left tackle.  A premier edge rusher is almost automatically the best player on any defense.  Add in his excellent run defense, and its tough not to call TJ Watt the best player on the Steelers defense.

Minkah Fitzpatrick:

On most other teams in the league, Minkah Fitzpatrick is easily the best player on defense.  He is literally a turnover machine with 11 career interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries in just three seasons.  With defenses so handicapped by modern rule changes, the turnover has become possibly the most important stat for a defensive player.  Not only does Fitzpatrick create turnovers, he often turns them into points as well.  He currently sits on three career touchdowns, which is remarkable for a player on that side of the ball.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has become so dominant in the secondary teams have actively tried to avoid his side of the field.  He can go long stretches of time never seeing a ball thrown anywhere near his direction.  He is now unquestionably the best safety in the league after only three seasons.

The Verdict:

How do we chose between these two superstars on the Steelers?  On one hand TJ Watt is among the very best at the most important position on the defensive side of the ball.  On the other hand, Minkah Fitzpatrick is the best at creating turnovers which may be the most important stat on defense.

At the end of the day we have to go with TJ Watt by the slightest of margins.  An elite pass rusher inevitably makes the secondary’s job a whole lot easier.  The kind of pressure TJ Watt puts on quarterbacks often leads to the errant throws Minkah Fitzpatrick takes advantage of.  This is no slight on what Fitzpatrick has accomplished in Pittsburgh.  Both are incredible players, but if we had to choose one it would be TJ Watt in a very close decision.