In the spirit of football continuing in 2020 on either a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, hopefully only a reality for this exercise, how accurately are the Pittsburgh Steelers represented on the popular football game Madden?
Obviously, Madden is just a video game and has no impact on anything having to do with the actual NFL season. However, it’s fun to look at the ratings and compare.
As of the most recent roster patch for Super Bowl LIV, the Steelers only had two players rated in the 90s. Would it be a surprise that an offensive player was the highest rated?
It’s tough to truly just slap a rating on a player. With past seasons taken into effect when initially rating players before the release of the game, by using the final updated roster of 2019, these rating should reflect player growth — or decline — of the 2019 season.
Let’s see how poorly the Madden developers did!
Ben Roethlisberger — QB — 81 overall, 15th best in the game
James Conner — RB — 81 overall, 31st best in the game
Derek Watt — FB — 70 overall, 10th best in the game
JuJu Smith-Schuster — WR — 86 overall, 17th in the game
James Washington — WR — 77 overall, sub-50th
Diontae Johnson — WR — 75 overall, sub-50th
Eric Ebron — TE — 86 overall, ninth overall in the game
Alejandro Villaneuva — LT — 82 overall, 13th best in the game
Ramon Foster — LG — 81 overall, eighth best in the game
Maurkice Pouncey — C — 86 overall, sixth best in the game
David Decastro — RG — 91 overall, third best in the game
Matt Feiler — RT — 71 overall, 22nd in the game
Big Ben coming in as a middle of the pack quarterback in the game, with an 81 rating — his lowest rating since earning a 79 as a rookie in Madden 05 — leaves plenty of room for growth. Coming off a season-ending injury in his age-38 season, there’s a reason for some uncertainty, but if Big Ben truly isn’t feeling any pain in his throwing arm for the first time in years, he should prove this rating is remarkably low. When he throws for 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns, we’ll re-evaluate — knock on wood.
James Conner is a divisive back, but are there really 30 better halfbacks in the NFL? Probably not. Dealing with his fair share of injuries last season after a somewhat surprising breakout in 2018, there’s a strong possibility a top tier halfback prospect will be brought in to compete for snaps next season.
Ranked a few spots behind Kerryon Johnson and Leonard Fournette and just ahead of LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson, Conner feels like he’s reached a huge fork in the road. The writing is on the wall for his time as a feature back.
The Steelers traded Roosevelt Nix, a 71, for Derek Watt, a 70, as their fullback next season.
Two special teams’ aces with strong blocking chops, a near identical rating isn’t surprising. Both players rank in the top 10 in the game; a fair indication of their mainly special teams based impact.
My first minor disagreement comes out wide with JuJu Smith-Shuster, of course. The suddenly polarizing wide receiver came in fourth out of his draft class of Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp and Kenny Golladay.
A sure-fire top 20 wide receiver in the NFL, JuJu has more catches and yards than all three, despite a very underwhelming debut as a No. 1 in the Steelers’ offense in 2019. With a bounce-back 2020, connecting once again with Big Ben again, JuJu could return to the top 10 status he saw in 2018.
While his 86 should probably be more of an 88-89, a 500 yard season will do that to you.
After a solid sophomore campaign for James Washington, although not the expected breakout many foresaw, a 77 seems fair. Diontae Johnson, coming off an All-Pro season, should probably be around a 77, too.
Does Eric Ebron provide an eight point jump over Vance McDonald and his 78 rating? Probably not. Can he be the X-factor in the 2020 offense, absolutely.
Ebron is a top eight tight end in the game, which seems awfully high for a sometimes drop prone, lackadaisical blocking tight end. However, when he’s on his game, and with the return of Big Ben in 2020, Ebron seems like he can become what we all thought Ladarius Green would become.
Is Ebron a top eight tight end? No. Is he blessed with a rare blend of athleticism, size and speed? Yes. With a good year in 2020, he could make an 86 look rather low. There’s no reason why Ebron can’t become Pittsburgh’s next great tight end.
David DeCastro checks in as the highest rated player on the Steelers’ offense, and that’s exactly where he should be. As long as he’s in the 90s, albeit maybe a couple points too low, I’m happy.
Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villaneuva as an 86 and 82, respectively, are probably a couple of points too low. Ramon Foster, an 81 and the eighth best left guard in the game, is probably benefiting from the longevity of successful career.
My biggest bone to pick comes with Matt Feiler slotting in as the 22nd best right tackle in the game at just 71 overall. I don’t think the developers watched a single game last season.
Feiler was the most underrated player on the offense last season and was definitely the unheralded star of the offensive line.
For the most part, the offense wasn’t actually too far off, in my opinion.
The defense is another story.
Stephon Tuitt — LE — 87 overall, 10th best in the game
Javon Hargrave — DT — 81 overall, 17th best in the game
Cam Heyward — RE — 90 overall, third best in the game
T.J. Watt — LOLB — 86 overall, sixth best in the game
Ryan Shazier* — MLB — 84 overall, 10th best in the game
Vince Williams — MLB — 77 overall, 27th best in the game
Devin Bush — MLB — 76 overall, 28th best in the game
Bud Dupree — ROLB — 80 overall, 12th best in the game
Joe Haden — CB — 83 overall, 25th best in the game
Steven Nelson — CB — 82 overall, 33rd best in the game
Minkah Fitzpatrick — FS — 85 overall, eighth best in the game
Terrell Edmunds — SS — 76 overall, 35th best in the game
Stephon Tuitt is a player with limitless potential, a hulking presence on the defensive line, but he still hasn’t truly been able to put together a breakout season. He appeared on his way toward a breakout in 2019 before he succumbed to injury.
An 87 and the 10th best at his position in the game feels a tad bit high. Here’s to hoping Tuitt can prove it in 2020.
For fun, since Javon Hargrave is gone now, I’ll talk about how underrated the top paid nose tackle in football is (Kind of Ironic now, I know). The 17th best at his position in the game, Hargrave turned into one of the best interior linemen in the NFL during his time in Pittsburgh.
The first of the egregious errors falls on Cam Heyward’s broad shoulders. Despite being rated as the third best right end in the game, Heyward’s 91 is a disgraceful representation of one of the best defenders in the NFL.
Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and while Heyward will never touch his production, his impact on the game is measured in ways that can’t truly be measured. Heyward is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, just behind Donald on the D-line, and anything less than a 95 is simply incorrect.
If there was a more impactful player on the defense for the Steelers in 2019, it was T.J. Watt. Watt established himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL in 2019, his blend of premier pass rushing and game changing plays unmatched in the NFL.
An 86 for Watt would be fair after his rookie season, not after two superstar seasons. Watt should be in the mid to high 90s, on the same level as his brother J.J.
Ryan Shazier’s 84 rating is far less important than simply his inclusion in the game.
Vince William’s decline in snaps in 2019, combined with Devin Bush’s strong rookie season, shows why Williams is a couple points too high and Bush is a couple points too low.
Fresh off a stat-stuffing season, thrown into the fray as a rookie, Bush has tons of room to grow as one of the league’s best off ball linebackers. I know Bush wouldn’t likely be in the picture if Shazier stayed healthy, but can you imagine that duo?
Bud Dupree finally broke out as a game-changing edge rusher in his fifth season with the Steelers, flashing career-best numbers across the board — including 11.5 sacks.
Ranking just outside the upper echelon of outside linebackers in the game, Dupree needs to prove he wasn’t a one year wonder. His 2019 campaign more than earned an 80 rating though.
Steven Nelson validated his place as one of the best signing off the off-season with a stellar 2019 campaign, truly becoming one of the most underrated players in the NFL. An 82 rating as the 33rd best player at his position is outrageous.
Thanks to a great comparison from the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, we know that Nelson was on the field for over 1,000 snaps in 2019 and allowed just 37 receptions for 490 yards and zero touchdowns. While Nelson’s one interception won’t draw national hype, he was one of the best lock-down corners in the NFL last season.
Pairing with Nelson to form one of the duos in the NFL, Joe Haden did record the stats to claim national praise — at least more than Haden. But, for the most part, that praise didn’t come. At least not from Madden.
With five interceptions in 2019, Haden had his best season since his years in Cleveland. The duo both deserve to be rated in the high 80s, with Nelson among the best in the game.
Like his secondary teammates, Minkah Fitzpatrick is criminally underrated by the Madden developers. An All-Pro in 2019, as one of the biggest difference makers in the NFL, Fitzpatrick revitalized the Steelers’ defense after arriving from Miami. Fitzpatrick deserves to rank in the 90s like his fellow All-Pro teammates.
If the Madden developers got one Steelers’ defender too high, it was probably Terrell Edmunds. The 2018 first rounder isn’t as inept as some believe, and at just 23 years old, he has room to grow. But he’s definitely the weakest link on the defense.
One of the best defenses in the NFL, Madden doesn’t quite truly represent that. A few players are grossly underrated.
Jordan Berry — P — 75 overall, 15th best in the game
Chris Boswell — K — 82 overall, third best in the game
Jordan Berry checks in as a middle of the pack punter in the game, not good but not bad. That sounds like Berry. Berry probably needs to be replaced at some point in the near future.
Boswell earned an 82 overall, ranking as the third best kicker in the league. If not for a poor 2018, I’d argue him as high as the second best in the league. No point in arguing with third best.
The offense is rated fairly enough, the defense isn’t very accurate and special teams is OK.
It’s tough for Madden developers to nail every player in the league, but there are some egregious errors on the defense.
What do you guys think of the Madden rankings? Is the team accurately rated?
Let me know in the comments below!