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Steelers Pro Football Focus grades on offense for Week 1 leave room for improvement

In the grades provided by PFF, nobody on the Steelers offense stood far above the pack.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Buffalo in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season and emerged victorious despite being 6.5-point underdogs. With the defense keeping the Bills in check and keeping the game manageable at halftime even though the Steelers had yet to put anything on the scoreboard, both units coming together along with the special teams gave the Steelers a 1–0 start to the year.

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 1 performance. 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.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up is the offense. Included will be all the players who played at least one snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included (except for Minkah Fitzpatrick who played two snaps in victory formation). For reference sake, the Steelers played 58 snaps on offense in Week 1


Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

WR Chase Claypool: 72.8 (39 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 72.8 (29 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 71.9 (16 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 71.8 (58 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 69.9 (53 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

C Kendrick Green: 55.3 (55 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 54.7 (3 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 53.1 (58 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 52.8 (58 snaps)
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 38.0 (58 snaps)


Quarterback

QB Ben Roethlisberger: 38.0 (58 snaps)

Despite not throwing any interceptions, Ben Roethlisberger was given the lowest grade by far on the Steelers offense. While Roethlisberger was off target a few times, his score had him the lowest ranked quarterback in the entire NFL through all of Sunday’s games. Although I don’t think Roethlisberger set the field on fire, his score being that low seems more about a narrative than play on the field.

Running Backs

RB Najee Harris: 55.4 (58 snaps)
RB Derek Watt: 60.0 (4 snap)

The most notable number in this category isn’t the fact that Harris was the only running back with rushing attempts, he was the only running back on the field as he played every snap. Harris didn’t take the NFL by storm in his debut, but his opportunities were hindered early by the play of the offensive line and a couple of target passes from his quarterback.

Receivers

WR Chase Claypool: 72.8 (39 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 72.8 (29 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 71.9 (16 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 69.9 (53 snaps)
WR James Washington: 68.4 (15 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 66.1 (44 snaps)
TE Eric Ebron: 62.1 (27 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 54.7 (3 snaps)

The Steelers got good play from the receivers according to PFF. With almost all the receivers scoring in the top half of the offense, the unit did well as a whole but yet did not have any one player who scored well above the rest. With Freiermuth and Claypool tied for the top spot, it’s nice to see the Steelers young players making the most of their opportunities.

What really needs to be pointed out here is the absolute failing of PFF to use context when they grade each and every play. Here is an example which will show you why so many dismiss their grades when they do things like this. Below is a play, one of only three plays in the game when he was on the field for offense, where Ray-Ray McCloud is tasked with blocking a defensive end. For what he was asked to do, McCloud does a fantastic job. Yet for some reason, McCloud got a pass blocking grade that was considered “below the line.” Judge for yourself:

Offensive Line

OT Dan Moore Jr.: 71.8 (58 snaps)
G Trai Turner: 69.1 (58 snaps)
C J.C. Hassenauer: 60.0 (3 snaps)
C Kendrick Green: 55.3 (55 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 53.1 (58 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 52.8 (58 snaps)

While nobody got an outstanding grade on the offensive line, seeing Dan Moore Jr. at the top grade of offensive linemen and in the top five for the team is encouraging in his first start. For comparison sake, Moore had the third-highest grade of any rookie tackle in Week 1 and the fourth-highest grade among rookie offensive linemen. What is the most discouraging is seeing Kevin Dotson at the bottom of the list. It is only one game, and hopefully Dotson can bounce back in Week 2.


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.