The Steelers defense had a a strong season and it's evident with four defensive players taking part in Sunday's Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium, with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden and T.J. Watt on hand to represent the black and gold.
And with that crew together, it's a chance for them to talk about the future and what the defense needs to do to help the team get back to the postseason in 2020.
"These last couple of weeks after the season we had time to think about it, what I can do better, what we can do better as a team," said Fitzpatrick. "Me, Joe and T.J. are going to get together and talk and pick each other's brains and think about what we can do better as leaders, teammates and a defense to improve our season, make the playoffs next year and continue to grow."
And there is still a lot of growth for the defense as it's a young group, with Fitzpatrick, Watt, Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds a young core that meshes well with the veterans.
Check out photos of the Steelers at the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida
"I am excited about it," said Fitzpatrick. "I had a whole lot of fun this year. It's a young group of guys. We have a bright future together, we'll be able to grow together. That is the most important thing, and go out there and have fun."
And that seems to have been a theme with the defense this year. Having fun.
"We just have a lot of fun," said Watt. "We're young and have a lot of confidence. We play with a lot of swagger. Just having a lot of fun. This past year we had so much fun just flying around. It's a lot better when you are able to create those turnovers. We just want to continue to build on that stuff."
The defense led the NFL in takeaways with 38 this season, but they want to take it a step further. They want to be the NFL's No. 1 defense and help the team get to the postseason.
"I think to fully take over a game, to completely shut teams out," said Watt of the goal. "We didn't get any zeroes on the board. We want to be able to shut teams out and control the game defensively. That is what sets defenses apart, especially once you get the takeaways. You want to be able to lay the goose egg on teams and make sure they aren't scoring any points and help the offense out as much as you can."
Note: Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro were voted to the Pro Bowl, but both will miss the game because of injuries.
They said it:
Minkah Fitzpatrick on playing with Joe Haden:
"I was really excited to play with Joe. It's Joe Haden. I didn't grow up watching him, but as I got older and started learned more about football, I watched him. He's a great player. He's a legendary guy and a great dude off the field. I had a whole lot of fun playing with him. I can pick his brain, ask him questions about stuff on the field, off the field, he is going to answer it. He is a solid veteran. I love playing with him. He brings a lot of energy to the game. He's a great teammate."
* T.J. Watt on wanting Bud Dupree back:*
"It would be huge to have Bud back. I am a huge advocate for Bud Dupree. He had a hell of a season this year and he is continuing to get better. It's not just the sacks and pass rush stuff, he plays the run really well too. I would love to have him back. That is not my decision. They know how I feel about him."