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Role players top the Steelers defensive Pro Football Focus grades for Week 15

In the grades provided by PFF, it was the players on the field for limited snaps who topped the list.

NFL: DEC 19 Titans at Steelers Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers started the final quarter of the season on the right foot as they gutted out a 19–13 victory over the Tennessee Titans. While they were still plenty of warts which need addressed with the 2021 Steelers, being able to pull out a victory in a game that had a number of problems and against equality opponents is what puts teams in playoff contention rather than looking toward next season. With the offense unable to move the ball, it was the Steelers defense coming up with big plays and keeping the Titans off the scoreboard the entire second half.

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 15 performance. These scores are just from Thursday’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 80 snaps on defense in Week 15.


Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB Derrek Tuszka: 92.7 (20 snaps)
ILB Marcus Allen: 85.6 (8 snaps)
OLB Taco Charlton: 74.2 (7 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 73.7 (44 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 72.3 (80 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

DT Chris Wormley: 56.7 (56 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 49.6 (57 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 41.3 (21 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 39.4 (15 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 31.5 (53 snaps)


Defensive Front Seven

OLB Derrek Tuszka: 92.7 (20 snaps)
OLB Taco Charlton: 74.2 (7 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 70.0 (73 snaps)
OLB T.J. Watt: 64.3 (67 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 63.3 (66 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 58.1 (24 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 56.7 (56 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 41.3 (21 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 39.4 (15 snaps)

Seeing Derrek Tuszka at the top of the list might have fans wondering what got him there, but a 94.4 pass rush score is definitely the deciding factor. It was also the pass rush score which put Taco Charlton in the top five as his 82.6 score was the second-highest on the team. It wasn’t that Cam Heyward or T.J. Watt had a bad game by any means, but the two reserve outside linebackers did not show a drop off when they came on the field and scored higher. Seeing Carlos Davis at the very bottom of the list in his first game back is disappointing, but not surprising since he hasn’t seen the field since Week 1.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Marcus Allen: 85.6 (8 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 58.0 (34 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 49.6 (57 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 31.5 (53 snaps)

After an extremely low score the previous week, Marcus Allen shoots to the top of the defensive list led by a 77.2 coverage score. In what was almost a swap in positioning, Devin Bush goes from a solid game against the Vikings to the bottom score of the defense yet again. Even though he was at the bottom, it should be noted that both Bush and Schobert were one and two respectively in tackling scores with an 80.7 and 80.3 just a head of Minkah Fitzpatrick. So even though the Steelers starting inside linebackers are struggling against the run, they are tackling well when they get to the play.

Defensive Backs

CB Arthur Maulet: 73.7 (44 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 72.3 (80 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 72.2 (80 snap)
CB Cam Sutton: 69.2 (79 snaps)
S Miles Killebrew: 68.1 (5 snaps)
CB Joe Haden: 67.6 (27 snaps)
S Tre Norwood: 66.1 (8 snaps)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 58.5 (56 snaps)

The first thing that has to be said about this position group is how well they scored from top to bottom. With Ahkello Witherspoon occupying the bottom slot, he wasn’t really close to being in the bottom five. In all, the Steelers secondary did a nice job with Arthur Maulet getting the top score. With both having quality tackling scores, it was Fitzpatrick’s run defense score of 71.4 and Edmunds coverage score of 83.5 which landed them in the top six of the defense. In his return after missing almost 5 games, Joe Haden had a quality score on his 27 snaps, and we all know what he did on the final defense of player of the game.


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.