When you think about the past players in the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive secondary, it can make you cringe at times. Whether you go back to Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott, or to Brandon Boykin, and plenty of others, the Steelers Achilles heel has almost always been their secondary.
After seven games in the 2017 regular season, the Steelers’ secondary is first place in the NFL. Yes, you read that correctly, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the best secondary in the entire league.
While most fans are waiting for the other shoe to drop with the secondary composed of Joe Haden, Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis, it doesn’t seem to be giving way anytime soon. And at Pro Football Focus (PFF), they think likewise after two members of the secondary were their highest-graded players.
Check out Week 7’s best performers, per PFF:
TOP 5 GRADES:
S Sean Davis, 87.5 overall grade
CB Joe Haden, 85.9 overall grade
LB Ryan Shazier, 85.5 overall grade
G David DeCastro, 84.5 overall grade
Edge T.J. Watt, 82.4 overall grade
When looking at the game as a whole in Week 7, PFF put together some very key performances of note. They weren’t always the highest-graded players, but were certainly key in the team’s victory over AFC North rival, the Cincinnati Bengals
PERFORMANCES OF NOTE:
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER, 79.5 OVERALL GRADE
Although Roethlisberger was by no means electric, he was solid in his third divisional game this season. Roethlisberger was helped out by his offensive line, which only allowed six pressures on the day. When the pocket was clean for Roethlisberger, he was 12-of-18 for 174 yards and a touchdown. That netted a passer rating of 116.4 and he averaged 9.7 yards per attempt. Also importantly, Roethlisberger did not have one turnover-worthy throw on the day.
G DAVID DECASTRO, 84.5 OVERALL GRADE
The Steelers made it clear from the start that they were going to try to establish the run with their All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers rely on their interior linemen to get a push for Bell so he can pick his holes and hit them. DeCastro was their best run blocker on the day with a 83.9 run-blocking grade. He also didn’t allow a pressure on 26 snaps in pass protection, which resulted in an 83.1 pass protection grade.
S SEAN DAVIS, 87.5 OVERALL GRADE
At their best, the Steelers’ defense flies around and makes physical plays on the ball to erase any yardage they may have given up to that point. Davis typified this, as he had a powerful hit on Joe Mixon that saw the Bengals’ running back fumble as he tried to recover his feet in the right flat. Davis also provided the break up on a forced throw by Andy Dalton that led to William Gay’s first interception since Week 12 last season.
LB RYAN SHAZIER, 85.5 OVERALL GRADE
After a rough outing against the Chiefs last week, Shazier rebounded at home with a more disciplined showing in tune with what we’ve seen from him for most of the season. His five defensive stops on the day takes his season total to 24, placing him among the top 10 most productive off-ball linebackers in the league in that category. Now that he’s cut down on over pursing plays and blown assignments, Shazier’s athleticism is allowing him to make plays all over the field without much downside this season.
A lot of people despise PFF and their grading system, but the amount of analytics they do on a daily, and weekly, basis is tremendous. The analysis remains, even if the grades might go against the grain in some circumstances.
Nonetheless, if you take anything away from this information via PFF, know it’s the fact the Steelers are playing at a very high level right now, and for once the team’s secondary is one of those areas of strength.