Awards keep coming for defensive trio

Award season continued in the NFL today when the Sporting News named their All-Pro team and three Steelers made the cut.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt were all named to the team. All three of them were also named first-team AP All-Pro last week.

Fitzpatrick led the NFL in takeaways this year with eight, five interceptions and three fumble recoveries, while also forcing two fumbles. He made a huge impact on the defense after being acquired via trade from the Miami Dolphins.

Fitzpatrick recorded defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games. He had a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Colts and the following week picked up a fumble against the Rams and it took it in for a 43-yard score.

"He's a ball hawk," said Bud Dupree. "He just finds the ball. It's crazy to see him make plays on the ball all the time, not one time but every game. Every single game Minkah is making big plays on the back end."

Heyward has been a rock for the defense throughout his career and dominated more than ever this year, finishing the year with nine sacks.

"He is our captain. He is the best at what he does," said nose tackle Javon Hargrave. "He is dominating the league. He has been dominating for the last five years, ever since I got here. He is just playing at a high level. He just shows you how to practice, what he does. He beats his players easily in a game. I don't know how he does it. He is just that good. He dominates what he does."

Watt, who was voted Steelers MVP, finished the season with 14.5 sacks to lead the defense. He had multiple sack games four times this season, including two sacks against both the Rams and Dolphins, and a sack and a half against the Bengals and Colts.

"He had an amazing season. A defensive player of the year season," said Dupree. "Hopefully he gets that award at the end of the year. It would be great for him and the whole unit.

"He works hard every day, makes corrections, studies, he is an all-around player. He is about football all day. That is all he talks about, football and competitive stuff. He goes about his business and makes sure he is getting better each time he is out there. He never wants to make mistakes, never wants to not play well, and wants to play at an elite level and shows up all of the time."

Bowl bound: Another honor has come for two Steelers' coaching assistants. Denzel Martin and Blaine Stewart have been selected as assistant coaches for the East-West Shrine Bowl on Jan. 18 at Tropicana Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida. Martin will coach special teams for the East Team, while Steward will coach the quarterbacks for the West Team.

The game can be seen on NFL Network, with kickoff at 3 p.m.

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