The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in their first preseason action vs. the Dallas Cowboys. The 16-3 final score certainly would make fans who didn’t get to watch the game feel good about their favorite team, but that doesn’t mean that is exactly how it went down. The fact the Steelers held the Cowboys to only three points may be the most encouraging sign of all, regardless of it being the preseason.
But how did these players grade out?
To get a better grasp on the individual performances by the Steelers, we turn to Pro Football Focus (PFF) to see their individual grades. Before going any further, we are all aware many fans cannot stand PFF’s grading system. I rarely publish an article including grades or rankings from PFF without my typical disclaimer as to how it is up to each individual as to how much they trust the process which goes into PFF grades.
Nonetheless, even if you don’t like PFF it does give a baseline to allow fans to see who played well, and who might have been “below the line”, as Mike Tomlin would put it.
Below are the grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense from the Hall of Fame game vs. the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday night.
NOTE: Players had to play a certain number of snaps (15) in order to see a grade. Also, Miles Killebrew was graded with linebackers instead of defensive backs despite playing safety.
Defensive Front Seven
Even without the elite T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the field, this still looked a lot like the dominant Pittsburgh pass rush of recent years.
Alex Highsmith and Quincy Roche both recorded sacks, and five players from this group (Highsmith, Roche, Jamir Jones, Carlos Davis and Abdullah Anderson) managed at least three pressures.
Robert Spillane and Ulysses Gilbert III both ended the game with coverage grades below 30.0. They were targeted five times combined and allowed four first downs on those targets. Rookie linebacker Buddy Johnson fared better in that department, allowing just one reception for six yards on two targets into his coverage.
James Pierre is a candidate to earn a larger role on this Pittsburgh defense with some of the departures at cornerback this offseason, and he played well in his first chance to show he deserves a starting opportunity. He allowed just 29 passing yards into his coverage on 30 coverage snaps and forced an incompletion. Mark Gilbert also picked up a pair of forced incompletions on the three passes thrown his way.
So, what do you think of the above grades? Were they close, or way off? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.