The Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers are considered rivals in the AFC North but mostly in words the last few decades. The most recent battle that had meaning turned the tide toward the Browns but the Steelers have outclassed their rivals for a couple of decades.
If Cleveland and Pittsburgh are to return to the NFL playoffs, quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Kenny Pickett will have to show strong improvement from their 2022 play. They won’t have to carry the entire load by themselves as each team is expected to have a stout defense.
Myles Garrett and TJ Watt lead those defensive units as two of the best, if not the two best, edge players in the entire NFL. Watt missed seven games last year following his 22.5 sacks in 2021 while Garrett put up his second straight 16-sack season while adding 8.5 tackles for loss as a one-man bad on the Browns defensive line.
Going into the 2023 season, ESPN surveyed league executives and scouts (subscriber, $) about major NFL awards with Garrett and Watt virtually tying for the preseason Defensive Player of the Year Award:
Garrett and Watt were essentially dead even, so we went with both. The argument for Garrett is simple: He has been knocking on the door for a while with back-to-back 16-sack seasons.
“He’s a great player who hasn’t really had his signature moment yet, and this might be the year,” an NFL scouting official said. “He’s going to have more help around him, which should allow him to get loose more. The defense [under new coordinator Jim Schwartz] will constantly be attacking.”
The survey also had Nick Bosa, Micah Parsons and Maxx Crosby “creating buzz.”
It is no surprise that in a passing league, those who rush the passer are expected to win the biggest award on defense.
Do you think Garrett has a better season now with help or his numbers decline due to more talent around him? Talk Garrett, Watt and year-end predictions in our comment section below: