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The inside linebackers make a big jump in Steelers defensive Pro Football Focus grades

In the grades provided by PFF, Devin Bush and Joe Schobert gave the best performance for the position group in 2021.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back to their winning ways in Week 4 and hope to start a different kind of streak moving forward. The offense put up their most points of the season, and the defense kept their opponent in check through the first three quarters. In all, it was a good team win.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for their Week 5 performance. These score are just from Sunday’s game and not for the entire season. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. First up is the defense. Included will be all the players who played at least one snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 60 snaps on defense in Week 5.


Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB T.J. Watt: 90.1 (50 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 80.1 (25 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 79.3 (45 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 77.7 (45 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 75.6 (49 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

CB Tre Norwood: 59.4 (22 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 56.3 (24 snaps)
OLB Melvin Ingram III: 54.9 (36 snaps)
CB Joe Haden: 54.0 (60 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 34.5 (40 snaps)


Defensive Front Seven

OLB T.J. Watt: 90.1 (50 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 79.3 (45 snaps)
DT Isaiah Buggs: 75.2 (13 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 68.4 (9 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 67.4 (17 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 62.9 (41 snaps)
OLB Derrek Tuszka: 59.5 (2 snaps)
OLB Melvin Ingram III: 54.9 (36 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 34.5 (40 snaps)

All is right in the world once again as T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward are back to the top two spots of this position group. Heyward still holds the top overall defensive grade in the NFL at 91.9 with Monday’s game still to be played. Henry Mondeaux had the Steelers highest pass rushing grade in Week 5 with a 77.3 as he recorded his first career sack. It is troubling to see the other outside linebackers other than Watt all at the bottom of the list, even if the defensive grades are overall higher than they have been over the last several weeks.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Devin Bush: 80.1 (25 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 75.6 (49 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 56.3 (24 snaps)

After seeing what type of game Devin Bush was having, him exiting due to a groin injury (which I assume is a real aggravation of his previous injury) is quite discouraging. The tandem of Bush and Schobert were starting to come into their own against the run-heavy Broncos. Spillane filled in admirably, but his PFF score indicates it was not at the level of the Steelers former first-round pick.

Defensive Backs

CB Arthur Maulet: 77.7 (45 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 72.3 (59 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 63.9 (60 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 62.0 (60 snaps)
S Miles Killebrew: 60.6 (1 snap)
S Karl Joseph: 59.7 (2 snaps)
CB Tre Norwood: 59.4 (22 snaps)
CB Joe Haden: 54.0 (60 snaps)

Seeing cornerback Arthur Maulet on top of this list is a positive thing, but seeing him do it playing his most snaps of the season is even more encouraging. Maulet is currently tied with the fifth-best score of any qualifying corner in the NFL, and he has the second highest run defense score of any corner in the NFL with an 88.1 through five games. James Pierre scored well overall despite giving up a long touchdown. Minkah Fitzpatrick saw another week of an improved score thanks to his high grade of 71.4 in run defense which was third on the team behind Watt and Schobert. Since receiving an outstanding score in Week 1, Joe Haden has not been on the good side of PFF over his last three games.


So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.