How accurate were the Pro Football Focus grades for the Steelers offense in 2019?

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York JetsPhoto by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Some people swear by PFF rankings while others give them no weight at all, but the real answer is probably somewhere in between when it comes to grading the Steelers offense

As the NFL offseason presses on, fans are evaluating how players from their favorite team performed in 2019 in order to determine how they view the position both continuing in free agency and going into the draft. While some positions have much easier data to compare, others are very difficult to quantify with statistics. With many of these positions, fans often turn to the Pro Football Focus (PFF) player grades they issue for the season. There are many fans who swear by the rankings while others dismiss them completely. So how much can fans truly trust these grades?

The first thing which is needed is to understand how PFF breaks down each player in order to come up with an overall score. The first installment looking into PFF grades was two weeks ago just before the flurry of free agent activity began and it explained the process of how PFF determines their grades. This time, we are going to look at some of the PFF grades of the Steelers offense from 2019 to help determine how accurate their scores could be.

For this exercise, we will look at the ranking and scores at the offensive positions for the Steelers’ players. The top ranked player as well as the number of players ranked will be listed. Fullback was not included as the Steelers did not have a qualifying player. These numbers are merely presented in order to help you draw your own conclusion. All scores are courtesy of pff.com.


Quarterbacks:

Top Ranked: Russell Wilson (92.0)
Number Ranked: 37
35: Mason Rudolph (53.0)
37: Devlin Hodges (45.8)
N/A: Ben Roethlisberger (49.0)

Of all the quarterback who played enough snaps to qualify (about 315), the Steelers young QB’s ranked as two of the bottom three. The only player who separated them was Washington’s Kyle Allen.


Running Backs:

Top Ranked: Nick Chubb (88.7)
Number Ranked: 58
21: James Conner (73.6)
55: Jaylen Samuels (54.4)
N/A: Benny Snell Jr (67.2)

Snell did not reach the 260 snaps in took to qualify in the rankings. Had he been included, he would have been placed just ahead of Todd Gurley (67.0) as well as Melvin Gordon (66.0), LeSean McCoy (65.4), and Leonard Fournette (64.0).


Wide Receivers:

Top Ranked: Chris Godwin (90.7)
Number Ranked: 122
59: James Washington (69.3)
65: Diontae Johnson (67.9)
85: JuJu Smith-Schuster (63.1)
108: Deon Cain (55.6)

Johnson’s receiving score was slightly higher than Washington’s, but Washington ranked in the top 25 in run blocking among qualifying NFL receivers.


Tight Ends:

Top Ranked: George Kittle (94.4)
Number Ranked: 66
64: Nick Vannett (48.2)
T-65: Vance McDonald (45.3)

2019 was a difficult year to evaluate much of the Steelers’ offense, especially tight ends. McDonald tied for last among qualifying players with Vannett only one spot above.


Tackles:

Top Ranked: Ryan Ramczyk (90.9)
Number Ranked: 81
20: Matt Feiler (75.2)
24: Alejandro Villanueva (74.0)
N/A: Zach Banner (78.3)
N/A: Chukwuma Okorafor: (58.3)

Banner was about 100 snaps short of qualifying in the rankings which would have put him around 15th even with a very low pass blocking score. The Steelers were one of the six NFL teams with both tackles ranked in the top 25.


Guard:

Top Ranked: Brandon Brooks (92.9)
Number Ranked: 81
15: David DeCastro (71.0)
50: Ramon Foster (59.0)

It can be noted Stefen Wisniewski ranked 16th with a score of 70.9 just behind DeCastro.


Center:

Top Ranked: Jason Kelce (81.1)
Number Ranked: 37
32: B.J. Finney (56.9)
36: Maurkice Pouncey (51.5)

Not only was Pouncey’s score the lowest on the Steelers’ offensive line, his individual scores in both run blocking and pass blocking were lowest of all the Steelers’ starters.


So do you think PFF grades are reliable source in evaluating a player’s performance based on their assessment of the Steelers offense? Did the players score where you expected? Please vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

BTSC Watch Party: 2018 Week 15 vs New England

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The first game of the BTSC Watch Party is the 17-10 Steelers victory over the Patriots in 2018

Welcome to the BTSC watch party! You’re just in time to catch all the action for the first game Behind The Steel Curtain will view and re-live together. In order to join in on the fun, the first step is to make sure you have a signed up for your free subscription to NFL Game Pass which will last through the end of May. In doing so, you will have access to all NFL games dating back to 2009. If you have not yet signed up for Game Pass, click HERE.

Here’s how the process will work. We will all watch the first game sometime between now and next Thursday. On Thursday morning, Behind The Steel Curtain will publish the next article to discuss key elements from the game in the comment section. Additionally, the next game to be watched will be announced. So whatever you do, make sure you scroll all the way to the end of this article in order to vote on the next game to be a part of the watch party.

Another suggestion to enhance our viewing for the next game was by BTSC editor Jeff Hartman. He proposed the notion of doing the watch party at a specific time where we will create an article with an open thread much like those during Steeler games throughout the season. To see if others are interested in viewing the games in this manner, there is an additional pole at the end of the article. If so, the watch parties will be at 8 PM on Thursdays and at 1 PM on Sunday afternoons.

Now on to the game! The game which we will be viewing this week is…


2018 Week 15
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

December 16, 2018
Result: Steelers 17 Patriots 10

Finally getting over the hump to take down “that team up north,” the Steelers relied on strong defensive play and a key fourth quarter interception in order to secure the victory. It was also the career highlight of running back Jaylen Samuels who rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries as James Conner missed the game due to injury. It was an electric atmosphere at Heinz Field (I was in attendance at this game), and the Steelers stepped up to the plate on the big stage.

Things to consider when watching the game:

  1. What was the key moment in the game which led to the Steelers victory?
  2. Was there any particular player who stood out for having an exceptional game?
  3. Was there one particular play which kept the Steelers from a more decisive victory?
  4. Was there a moment in the game where everything went the Steelers way and if not it could have been a turning point?
  5. What was your most favorite moment of the game?

Of course, these questions are simply designed to start discussion. Be prepared on Thursday to give any of your thoughts about the game.


Make sure you let us know which game you would like to have for the next Steelers watch party. Articles will be on Sundays and Thursdays. If there’s a particular game not on the list, please leave the suggestion in the comments below so it can be included in the next article.

Welcome to the BTSC Steelers watch party!

NFL: NOV 10 Rams at SteelersPhoto by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With no sports on TV and NFL Game Pass offered for free through May, it’s time for BTSC to view some Steelers games and break them down

It’s a worst case scenario for sports fans at this time. Not only are we confined to are living spaces for much more time than we are accustomed, there are no live professional sports on television to help us get through these tough times. In order to get our sports fix, our only option is to view replays of old games of various sports.

Luckily, the NFL has stepped up in this time of crisis and is offering free access to NFL Game Pass through the end of May. With the availability to watch every NFL game since 2009, fans can view the condensed version, the full game replay, or the All-22 version. It all comes down to personal preference. But where do we start?

For me, I began thinking about looking at old games when NFL Network replayed Super Bowl XL Wednesday night. Although I did not catch the replay when it was shown, luckily my DVR picked it up for me and I have the game at my fingertips for my viewing pleasure.

In talking with BTSC editor Jeff Hartman about viewing replays of Steelers’ games, I mentioned to him the various things I look for when I watch. As the discussion continued, he suggested the idea of doing a “watch party” for BTSC. Of course, I was ready to run with the idea!

Here is how it will work:

There will be a number of polls at the conclusion of this article in order to set up what is best for the majority of the BTSC community. What games are we wanting to view? How far back are we wanting to go? How often do we want to come together in the comments section and discuss a game? Do we want to go a specific number of days, or do it on specific days of the week? These are the things which will be decided by all of you.

On Sunday morning, we will run our first watch party article with the results of the polls which will determine how the process will continue. At that time, we will announce the first game we will watch when convenient, have a poll for the next game to watch, and when the follow up article will be published where everyone can put their thoughts in the comments. We will also feature some specific things to look for in the game in order to engage in the conversation.

If you’re not sure exactly what we’re talking about, just think of it as a book club but instead of having to read a book, you get to watch a Steelers game.

So now it’s up to you, BTSC! Check out the polls below and help us get this rolling. Also, if you have more thoughts on the subject of how to make this the best possible for the community, leave them in the comments below!

If you want to get better prepared, you can go ahead and activate your complementary access to NFL Game Pass simply by clicking HERE.

For which game to chose, I stuck with either the first game of 2019 to go through the whole season in order, or the Steelers’ first win of the season. Other choices include signature wins from 2018. Please leave suggestions for games in the comments to be included in the next poll.