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The Steelers defensive front achieved the top scores in preseason Week 2 vs. the Lions

Checking in on the PFF grades for the Steelers’ defensive players in the third preseason game vs. the Lions.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious yet again in their third preseason action vs. the Detroit Lions. The 26-20 final score does not accurately portray how much the Steelers dominated the first half before giving up 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Steelers defense held the Lions to only 65 yards of offense in the first half before a late surge to keep the game from being a total blowout.

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, it’s time for the disclaimer as we are all aware many fans cannot stand PFF’s grading system. It is up to each individual as to how much they trust the process which goes into PFF grades, but we will report on the grades for you to make the decision.

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 their preseason Week 2 game vs. the Detroit Lions last Saturday night. For reference sake, the Steelers played 61 defensive snaps. All players scores were reported as long as they played at least one snap on defense.


Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB Alex Highsmith: 89.5 (25 snaps)
OLB Melvin Ingram III: 87.5 (20 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 77.2 (28 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 75.9 (20 snaps)
DT Isaiah Buggs: 74.7 (11 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

CB James Pierre: 47.2 (36 snaps)
OLB Cassius Marsh: 45.2 (15 snaps
S Donovan Steiner: 44.5 (7 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 44.1 (36 snaps)
CB Shakur Brown: 32.1 (21 snaps)

Defensive Front Seven

OLB Alex Highsmith: 89.5 (25 snaps)
OLB Melvin Ingram III: 87.5 (20 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 77.2 (28 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 75.9 (20 snaps)
DT Isaiah Buggs: 74.7 (11 snaps)
DT Henry Mondeaux: 72.0 (16 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 70.3 (18 snaps)
OLB Quincy Roche: 69.0 (27 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 62.5 (28 snaps)
OLB Jamar Watson: 61.5 (15 snaps)
DT T.J. Carter: 59.1 (11 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 55.6 (16 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 54.6 (19 snaps)
OLB Cassius Marsh: 45.2 (15 snaps)

The players who made up the defensive front five also saw the top of the overall defensive scores. In fact, 8 of the top 10 scores on defense came from either outside linebackers or defensive tackles. With both Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram III on the top of the list, both outside linebackers showed they are capable of holding down the position. Highsmith’s top defensive score would have been even better had he not been dinged with a 25.9 tackling score as PFF credited him with two missed tackles.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Devin Bush: 62.4 (25 snaps)
ILB Joe Schobert: 61.8 (25 snaps)
ILB Marcus Allen: 60.6 (36 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 44.1 (36 snaps)

While the scores don’t look overly impressive, the inside linebackers saw a major jump in their scores from the previous week. The only exception is Robert Spillane while players such as Devin Bush almost tripled his score from Week 1. The pass coverage was a huge improvement as Bush’s 67.0 score was third highest this week only behind Miles Killebrew and Joe Haden. It was quite interesting to see that the Steelers only played four inside linebackers in the game as Buddy Johnson and Ulysees Gilbert III did not see any action.

Defensive Backs

S Terrell Edmunds: 73.0 (25 snaps)
CB Joe Haden: 69.0 (5 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 67.1 (21 snaps)
S Tre Norwood: 66.8 (33 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 62.2 (2 snaps)
CB Justin Layne: 59.1 (41 snaps)
CB Lafayette Pitts: 58.8 (21 snaps)
CB Cameron Sutton: 56.9 (25 snaps)
S Miles Killebrew: 55.4 (29 snaps)
CB Mark Gilbert: 53.3 (7 snaps)
S Lamont Wade: 48.0 (7 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 47.2 (36 snaps)
S Donovan Steiner: 44.5 (7 snaps)
CB Shakur Brown: 32.1 (21 snaps)

It’s very encouraging to see Terrell Edmunds, Joe Haden, and Minkah Fitzpatrick getting the top scores in the Steeler secondary. Where Steelers fans are going to continue to be concerned is it the other cornerback position as well as in the slot. Hopefully the final preseason game can help sort things out even more. Right now, some of the players at the bottom of the list is what is the most discouraging. The most curious score might be James Pierre’s 47.2 as he had the lowest completion percentage of any targeted receiver (2 receptions on 5 targets for 40%) as well as the lowest QBR against (47.9).

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.