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Five Steelers earn Pro Bowl honors

The Pro Bowl won't be played this season, but that doesn't mean the NFL doesn't have a 2021 Pro Bowl team. As with so many things this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the NFL's annual Pro Bowl game. With safety at the forefront, the league canceled the annual game, which was slated to be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Jan. 31.

But players and fans alike still voted for the Pro Bowl team, and the Steelers are well-represented.

Five players were selected to the team, including two who led the fan voting in linebacker T.J. Watt and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who are joined by defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro. Watt, Fitzpatrick, Heyward and Pouncey are starters.

This is the 20th straight season the Steelers are sending multiple players to the Pro Bowl, and the 29th time in the last 32 seasons. It's also the fifth straight year the team had a least five players.

Here is a look at the Steelers Pro Bowl players:

T. J. Watt – Outside Linebacker

If Watt didn't make the Pro Bowl, it would have been a shock. He is having an All-Pro season once again and is a contender for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, which included games in Weeks 8-12, a stretch where the Steelers went 5-0, including three AFC North wins, two over the Baltimore Ravens and one over the Cincinnati Bengals. It's the second time he won AFC Player of the Month honors this year, previously doing so in September.

"I think he's still writing that story," said Coach Mike Tomlin earlier this season. "He was pretty awesome a year ago to be quite honest with you. I know he has an intention of being continually better, so he's still writing that story. His talents are just a part of the equation. His hyper-focus, his attention to detail, his awareness I think all add up to big playmaking ability and splash plays for us."

Watt, who was voted to the Pro Bowl for the second time, has 12 sacks on the season to rank second in the NFL, and leads the NFL in quarterback hits with 38 and tackles for a loss with 19, as well as 46 tackles, 36 of them solo stops, seven pass defenses, a forced fumble and interception.

Minkah Fitzpatrick – Free Safety

When you talk to Minkah Fitzpatrick, one of the first thing you notice is his intelligence. This is a guy that understands football. A guy who studies football. A guy who picks up the X's and O's with rapid speed.

He is a student of the game, and when asked, agreed that yes, he is a football junkie.

"I would say so," laughed Fitzpatrick. "I am not so much a guy who watches other games on television, but I like to break down film. Even when I am watching a game, it's like I am watching film. It's hard for me to watch it regularly because I watch so much film.

"It's my craft, it's my job. If you don't love it, then it's going to be hard for you to be successful at it."

That dedication, that commitment to his craft, has paid dividends for him. Last year he was selected to the Pro Bowl, was a first team Associated Press All-Pro selection, and earned a slew of other postseason honors after quickly becoming a playmaker for the Steelers. And this year, he is once again a Pro Bowl selection.

Fitzpatrick has 59 tackles this season, 42 of them solo stops, nine pass defenses, four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Cameron Heyward - Defensive Tackle

Cameron Heyward is the pillar of the Steelers defense, a stabilizing force who has earned his role as a defensive captain for the sixth straight year for a reason.

It's because he does things the right way, both on and off the field.

His leadership is visible on a daily basis to his teammates, and even to those who have never stepped foot in the Steelers locker room. It's how he works, how he encourages others, how he inspires others, and how he sets a constant example for others.

Heyward, who signed a new contract before the start of the 2020 season, is a Pro Bowl selection for the third consecutive year. Heyward has 41 tackles, including 24 solo stops, three sacks, one interception – the first of his career, and three pass defenses.

"Cam is special," said Tomlin. "It starts with his consistency. Not only consistency in presence, he is a guy who is ever-present, but consistency in work, consistency in urgency, there is great consistency in everything he does. I think it provides a good floor in everything he does. He doesn't ride an emotional roller coaster. You know what you are going to get from Cam. It starts first and foremost with his willingness to be present and engaged and be consistent in every aspect of his life."

David DeCastro – Guard
Maurkice Pouncey – Center

It's something you hear all of the time, that it all starts up front for the offense. And that is why it comes as no surprise the Steelers have at least one offensive lineman headed to the Pro Bowl for the seventh straight year and 10 out of the last 11 years.

Guard David DeCastro was voted to his sixth Pro Bowl and center Maurkice Pouncey was voted to his ninth Pro Bowl, despite both of them missing time this year.

DeCastro is a steadying force on the line, someone who quietly gets the job done each and every week. Pouncey is the steady leader on the offense, someone who guides the younger players while still showing a shining example for even the most seasoned veterans.

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