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Many low scores highlight the Steelers defensive Pro Football Focus grades for Week 16

In the grades provided by PFF, nine players on defense had scores under 50.0 for the game.

NFL: DEC 26 Steelers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a big setback in their 2021 postseason aspirations on Sunday in Kansas City. It wasn’t that the Steelers lost the game, but it’s how they lost and showed they are not on the same level as the AFC’s top seeded team. The defense did not keep the Chiefs from scoring the entire first half with the exception of a missed field goal. The offense was once again shut out in the first half, although they missed a field goal as well. It was the contributions on both sides of the ball which led to the old-fashioned beat down.

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 16 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. Next 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 69 snaps on defense in Week 16.


Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 85.6 (27 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 82.7 (9 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 78.5 (66 snap)
ILB Ulysees Gilbert III: 78.5 (9 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 71.0 (54 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

OLB Derrek Tuszka: 37.1 (22 snaps)
OLB Johns Simon: 36.9 (11 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 35.5 (23 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 33.0 (66 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 29.6 (24 snaps)


Defensive Front Seven

DT Carlos Davis: 82.7 (9 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 71.0 (54 snaps)
OLB Taco Charlton: 67.5 (13 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 56.1 (53 snaps)
OLB T.J. Watt: 50.6 (38 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 42.7 (34 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 41.8 (35 snaps)
OLB Derrek Tuszka: 37.1 (22 snaps)
OLB John Simon: 36.9 (11 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 29.6 (24 snaps)

After spending his first week back in action on the very bottom of the list, Carlos Davis shoots to the top with the second-best defensive score on the team. I had to start with a positive because seeing five players with scores under 50.0 is pretty bad. Additionally, based on the score and the snap account, it was obvious T.J. Watt was not himself on Sunday.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Ulysees Gilbert III: 78.5 (9 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 69.6 (60 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 33.0 (66 snaps)

Perhaps it’s just the player who fills that role, but Robert Spillane ended up with a score lower than many of the ones put forth by Devin Bush this season. Joe Schobert saw a 20-point increase this week as he just missed the top five and had the highest tackling score on the team of 81.6 for the game. UG3 got his first snaps on defense of the season, and even though it was only nine he found himself tied with Minkah Fitzpatrick in the top five for the defense.

Defensive Backs

CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 85.6 (27 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 78.5 (66 snap)
CB Cam Sutton: 67.1 (68 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 64.0 (69 snaps)
S Miles Killebrew: 52.4 (1 snap)
CB Joe Haden: 48.2 (50 snaps)
S Tre Norwood: 38.5 (27 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 35.5 (23 snaps)

Ahkello Witherspoon and Arthur Millett exchanged positions this week as one went from the top to the bottom and the other from the bottom to the top. Witherspoon had a very low tackling score of 26.6, but still had the top score on defense due to his 87.8 coverage score. It was also nice to see Minkah Fitzpatrick getting recognized for his play as he scored in the 70s in every subcategory and was one of the few encouraging things in an otherwise discouraging 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.