Two Pittsburgh Steelers defensemen were named to the Associated Press 2021 NFL All-Pro Team announced on Friday, January 14, 2022. That includes TJ Watt, the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, who was one of five unanimous nominees with: defensive tackle Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor; and wide receivers Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers and Cooper Kupp of the Rams. Also, the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett, who received 29 votes, 20 more than the next closest contender, Chicago Bears’ Robert Quinn, put the team in Watt’s edge-rusher position.
The Steelers’ other star on the team was defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who received 19 votes. That’s ten more than its closest contenders, namely the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones and the Tennessee Titans’ Jeffery Simmons. It’s the third time Heyward, 33, has been named an All-Pro, and also the third time for Watt.
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Just three other Steelers players received votes, including free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who received a single vote after being named a first-team All-Pro in both 2019 and 2020, an honor that includes his 2022 salary, the $10.612 million, up millions in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract.
Also considering: Safety Miles Killebrew, who received three votes in the Special Teamer category; and full-back Derek Watt, who received a single vote in the same category.
Killebrew has a reputation for offering particularly strong special teams. You may recall that he was the first unrestricted free agent the Steelers signed from another team this past offseason. He came to Pittsburgh on a one-year contract from the Detroit Lions that earned him a salary of $990,000 plus a $137,500 signing bonus.
This compares to Derek Watt, who had the same salary in 2021 but was capped at $2,953,333. It should be interesting to see if the Steelers keep Derek Watt in 2022. He is entering the third and final year of the contract, which he signed on March 18, 2020, for a salary of $2.75 million and a cap of $4,713,334. thanks to a contract restructuring that took place in March 2021.
In other news on Friday, the Steelers placed cornerback James Pierre on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a sophomore. Pierre played in all 17 regular-season games and made four starts, responsible for 47 tackles, one interception, three forced fumbles and four passes defended.
The team also signed field kicker Sam Sloman to the practice squad, similar to last week and similar to other times this season. To make room for Sloman, the Steelers released wide receiver Tyler Vaughns from the practice team.
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