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New names top the Steelers defensive Week 11 Pro Football Focus grades

In the grades provided by PFF, two players elevated from the practice squad land in the Steelers’ top 5 defensive grades.

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers exploded for 37 points in Week 11, their most so far in the 2021 season. Unfortunately, the defense surrendered 41 points all on their own as the offense did not turn the ball over and put them in a bad situation. Although the offense did put up a lot of points, the Steelers were down three scores to start the fourth quarter and may have been facing a different defensive philosophy than they typically would. And while the defense was down three of their four Pro Bowlers, the players on the field needed to step up and make a play.

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 11 performance. These scores 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 76 snaps on defense in Week 11.


Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB Delontae Scott: 74.2 (7 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 74.1 (13 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 73.9 (64 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 67.0 (27 snaps)
DT Daniel Arhibong: 66.5 (8 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

S Karl Joseph: 53.0 (15 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 50.3 (74 snaps)
OLB Taco Charlton: 48.4 (49 snaps)
CB Tre Norwood: 31.7 (76 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 28.8 (60 snaps)


Defensive Front Seven

OLB Delontae Scott: 74.2 (7 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 73.9 (64 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 67.0 (27 snaps)
DT Daniel Arhibong: 66.5 (8 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 65.2 (57 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 60.8 (62 snaps)
OLB Derrek Tuszka: 55.8 (32 snaps)
DT Isaiah Buggs: 53.8 (28 snaps)
OLB Taco Charlton: 48.4 (49 snaps)

The first thing that jumps out is the two players elevated from the practice squad landing in the top five for the defense. Yes, with Daniel Archibong being the fourth-ranked player on the defensive front seven, it still put him in the top five for the entire defense. Additionally, with the top score of 74.2 going to Delonte Scott, the most notable thing is how low the overall top score was this week. Alex Highsmith stepped up in the absence of T.J. Watt and had his highest graded game since Week 1. The other player of note was Cam Heyward having his lowest score of the season as he was the main focus of the Chargers offense.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Robert Spillane: 74.1 (13 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 54.6 (63 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 28.8 (60 snaps)

This group once again stays in the same order but the disparity between the three players grows even more in Week 11. Spillane had the second-highest grade on the defense and his highest score of 2021. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Devin Bush had the lowest score of his career as he struggled even more and seemed to be a specific target of the Chargers. Surprisingly, Bush had the highest tackling score on the defense of 78.5 as well as the top pass rushing score of 76.7 this week. It was Bush’s 44.6 coverage score and 24.8 run defense grade which brought him down to the bottom of the team.

Defensive Backs

CB Arthur Maulet: 62.4 (29 snaps)
S Miles Killebrew: 60.7 (1 snap)
CB Cam Sutton: 58.0 (75 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 57.6 (76 snaps)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 56.4 (20 snaps)
S Karl Joseph: 53.0 (15 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 50.3 (74 snaps)
CB Tre Norwood: 31.7 (76 snaps)

In a week where the PFF scores were low for the Steelers defense, the secondary couldn’t even put a player in the top five. Arthur Maulet lead the way as only he and Miles Killebrew (with only one snap) had a score higher than the 60.0 starting point. Tre Norwood had a rough game playing every snap and free safety, showing that while he scored well in games playing in sub packages, staying in that role may be the best fit for him at this time. But when players are out, there are going to be others who are asked to do more than they typically do with the defense.


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.