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Reserve receivers top the Steelers offensive Pro Football Focus Wild Card grades

In the grades provided by PFF, it was the non-starters of Washington and McCloud that scored the highest.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers qualified for the 2021 NFL postseason, but didn’t put up much of a fight. After hanging with the Chiefs and even having a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, the touchdown came courtesy of the defense while the offense did nothing to keep them in the game. Eventually, after holding them scores on the first five drives of the game, the Steelers defense eventually succumbed to the dynamic offense of the Chiefs and surrendered six-straight touchdown drives as the offense only started going after they were down four touchdowns.

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 Wild Card 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. First up this week 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. For reference sake, the Steelers played 68 snaps on offense in their Wild Card game.


Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

WR James Washington: 77.2 (23 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 75.5 (14 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 67.4 (31 snaps)
RB Kalen Ballage: 67.1 (20 snaps)
C J.C. Hassenauer: 65.6 (68 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

G Trai Turner: 52.4 (68 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 49.7 (30 snaps)
G John Leglue: 47.1 (68 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 46.8 (55 snaps)
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 35.8 (68 snaps)


Quarterback

QB Ben Roethlisberger: 35.8 (68 snaps)

It was not the performance which Ben Roethlisberger wanted to finish his career. Given his lowest score of the season by PFF, and his worst score since the Week 15 loss to Cincinnati in 2020, Roethlisberger had only a 37.3 running grade on two plays. Otherwise, he had a 42.3 passing score.

Running Backs

RB Kalen Ballage: 67.1 (20 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 64.1 (18 snaps)
FB Derek Watt: 59.4 (2 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 49.7 (30 snaps)

Najee Harris was another one of the Steelers who had his lowest PFF grade of the season. Where Harris scored particularly low was in the passing game where he had a season-low 26.9 score. The second option off the bench, Kalen Ballage had the second most snaps for the Steelers and found himself in the top five for the offense and with a 76.7 pass blocking grade.

Receivers

WR James Washington: 77.2 (23 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 75.5 (14 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 67.4 (31 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 57.5 (40 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 57.3 (60 snaps)
WR Chase Claypool: 56.9 (44 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 55.3 (52 snaps)
TE Kevin Rader: 54.8 (6 snaps)

Only targeted three times in the game, James Washington came down with two great high-point receptions, one of which was for a touchdown. Ray-Ray McCloud also had two nice receptions on two targets, with one while he took another hard shot. Despite the drops, Diontae Johnson came back to finish in the middle of the pack. One of the more telling numbers is JuJu Smith-Schuster getting the second-most snaps at receiver after coming back for his first game since Week 5.

Offensive Line

C J.C. Hassenauer: 65.6 (68 snaps)
OT Joe Haeg: 59.8 (13 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 57.3 (68 snaps)
G Trai Turner: 52.4 (68 snaps)
G John Leglue: 47.1 (68 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 46.8 (55 snaps)

I have to admit I did not even realize Joe Haeg came into the game for Chuks Okorafor. I assume it was during a time when things were out of hand so I wasn’t overly paying attention to the personnel. But Haeg landed just outside the top five for the team while Okorafor was last among the lineman and almost last for the entire offense. J.C. Hassenauer had a bit of a bounce-back game, while John Leglue seemed to struggle as well. I guess PFF assigned responsibility to Trai Turner when no one blocked a defensive tackle in the guard/center gap.


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.