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Brian O’Neill earns first Pro Bowl invite of NFL career

NFL: SEP 12 Vikings at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former Pitt offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, who is now a fixture on the Minnesota Vikings offensive line, earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday. The tackle did not make the initial Pro Bowl cut but was invited to play after Tampa Bay Buccaneers lineman Tristan Wirfs suffered an ankle injury.

O’Neill came to Minnesota as a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft after a solid career at Pitt. Since then, he has steadily ascended in status, becoming a starter six weeks into his first NFL season after Riley Reiff was forced to miss time with an injury. O’Neill impressed the Vikings staff to such a degree that he retained his role as a starting right tackle after Reiff had recovered and has been a starter ever since.

In 2021, O’Neill was named a team captain by the Vikings, and he signed a $92.5 million contract extension, tying him to the team for another five years. O’Neill then justified that contract by putting on a nearly flawless performance on the line, as he did not allow a sack for the first 17 weeks of the season.

In addition to that, O’Neill was considered one of the top tackles in the NFL in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus, which gave him a pass-blocking grade of 78.2. That ranked 13th in the league among all tackles, left or right, who played at least 800 snaps this season.

O’Neill is one of four Vikings players in the Pro Bowl this year, as he joins Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Harrison Smith. He is also the first Vikings lineman to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl since Matt Kalil in 2012. And with O’Neill making the trip to Las Vegas, Pitt will have three alums in the Pro Bowl, with the other two being James Conner and Aaron Donald.