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

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

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NFL: DEC 15 Bills at Steelers Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via 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. After already looking at the offense from last season, this time we are going to look at some of the PFF grades of the Steelers defense from 2019 to help determine how accurate their scores could be.

For this exercise, we will look at the ranking and scores at the defensive positions for the Steelers’ players. The top ranked player as well as the number of players ranked will be listed. These numbers are merely presented in order to help you draw your own conclusion. All scores are courtesy of

Interior Defensive Line:

Top Ranked: Aaron Donald (93.7)
Number Ranked: 114
2: Cameron Heyward (91.5)
5: Stephon Tuitt (89.1)
8: Javon Hargrave (83.4)
11: Tyson Alualu (80.1)

Even though he only played in six games, Stephon Tuitt had enough snaps in order to qualify. Having four players who all ranked in the top 11 is unheard of. New Steelers’ defensive tackle Chris Wormley ranked 63rd with a score of 65.6.

Edge Defenders:

Top Ranked: T.J. Watt (91.3)
Number Ranked: 107
1: T.J. Watt (91.3)
24: Bud Dupree (77.7)
N/A: Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (66.0)
N/A: Anthony Chickillo (62.1)

The only Pittsburgh Steelers’ player to rank first at their position, T.J. Watt made a solid argument for Defensive Player of the Year.


Top Ranked: Demario Davis (90.4)
Number Ranked: 89
12: Vince Williams (76.2)
36: Devin Bush (62.9)
53: Mark Barron (57.5)

While some argued the Steelers should have kept Barron over Vince Williams, the PFF rankings say otherwise.


Top Ranked: Richard Sherman (90.3)
Number Ranked: 112
6: Steven Nelson (80.5)
32: Joe Haden (70.3)
44: Mike Hilton (67.1)
N/A: Cameron Sutton (74.5)
N/A: Artie Burns (61.1)

Although Steven Nelson got the credit he deserved, Joe Haden did not get much love from PFF. Had Cameron Sutton played another 30 snaps he would have qualified in the top 20.


Top Ranked: Anthony Harris (91.1)
Number Ranked: 87
9: Minkah Fitzpatrick (79.8)
59: Terrell Edmunds (63.6)
N/A: Jordan Dangerfield (85.6)

I’m not sure what is more shocking, Minkah Fitzpatrick ranking ninth or the fact Jordan Dangerfield had a higher score.

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


How accurate were the PFF grades for the Steelers defense in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Pretty accurate. They were basically what I expected.
    (135 votes)
  • 68%
    Somewhat accurate. Several positions seemed right while others did not.
    (645 votes)
  • 17%
    Not very accurate. Most of the rankings made no sense.
    (162 votes)
942 votes total Vote Now