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

SB Nation logo SB Nation 3/29/2020 Dave.Schofield
a group of football players on a field © Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

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.

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