In an effort to determine which players are the most successful against each individual franchise, Pro Football Focus has been digging into their archives this offseason. And with grades dating back to 2006, the analytics company has the data to cover the entire careers of all but a handful of the players currently active.
As per PFF analyst Ben Linsey, no defensive player in the league could be labelled as more of a team-killer than Aaron Donald, with the Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman recording the highest grade of any NFL player against each team in the NFC West over the course of his career. While Aaron Rodgers earns the title on offense thanks to lifetime grades of 92.0 against the Chicago Bears, 93.3 versus the Detroit Lions and 92.7 against the New York Giants.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the piece was the revelation of the player considered the team-killer for the New England Patriots, a name that might come as something of a shock to Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
Despite a life-time record of just 4-8 against New England, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still comes out as the highest-graded player versus the Patriots since 2006 with an overall grade of 90.5. As Linsey explains:
“Sure to upset the #QBWINZ crowd, Roethlisberger comes out as the top-graded player against the Patriots despite being just 4-8 against Brady and company. The tape shows, however, that the subpar record hasn’t been his fault. Big Ben’s touchdown to interception ratio of 18-to-10 doesn’t overly impress, but his big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio of 28:8 is much more impressive. The discrepancy indicates that luck hasn’t been on his side in the matchup, but that doesn’t detract from him playing at a high level.”
Of the 10 regular season games Roethlisberger has played against New England, only three of them ended with a quarterback rating under 93.7. And if not for his two playoff performances against them that ended with an average quarterback rating of just 77.2, his overall grade from PFF would be even higher still.
With the notable exception of a 2004 playoff loss to the Patriots, it would be fair to say that Roethlisberger has rarely been the reason Pittsburgh has lost to New England. Perhaps one of the key reasons for many of the defeats coming in the shape of the man named as the Steelers team-killer by Linsey.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: TE ROB GRONKOWSKI, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, 94.5 OVERALL GRADE
“As I mentioned in the intro to this article, Gronkowski utterly dominated his matchups with the Steelers. He was targeted 51 times and brought in 41 of those passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns. No matter which metric you look at Gronk is up near the top but most impressive is his passer rating when targeted – a perfect 158.3. Can’t get any better than that.”