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My opinion of their opinion: Breaking down the Steelers PFF scores from Week 4

Last week I decided to switch up how I report the grades by Pro Football Focus (PFF) because of some of the recent absurdity of their findings. Since it seemed to be the most receptive approach, I decided this week to give my opinion of the PFF scores yet again.

As always has to be the case when PFF is mentioned, the disclaimer is these grades are subjective and merely the opinion of those doing the evaluation. While PFF looks at every player on every snap, they are still simply forming an opinion of what they believe that player was supposed to be doing that play in order to determine if they were successful or not.

So here are my overall impressions of the scores from the Steelers Week 4 loss to the Texans with my grade of PFF at the end.


Offense

The first thing that stands out is that only four players scored above the standard 60.0 score. Leading the way was guard Isaac Seumalo (75.8) followed by a Najee Harris (65.0), Mason Cole (63.2), and Chuks Okorafor (62.8). I was surprised to see Cole as one of the top grades despite it being of the mediocre variety. His pass blocking had a 51.0 score but actually had a run blocking score of 65.5 even though I saw him in the backfield on more than one occasion. Isaac Seumalo led the way because of his 88.2 pass blocking score which was the only thing above an 80.0 on the offense.

Scores towards the bottom were George Pickens (48.8), Nate Herbig (46.4), Pat Freiermuth (42.6), and Mitch Trubisky (29.2). Herbig had an extremely low pass blocking score of 22.0 and a less-than-stellar 55.6 in run blocking.

It’s very interesting to look at the scores of Dan Moore versus Broderick Jones. Moore had a better overall score of a 56.1 compared to Jones’ 53.0, but Jones scored higher than Moore in each subcategory with a 39.9 pass blocking score to a 38.7 by Moore. Jones also had a 59.5 run blocking score to Moore’s 59.3. The only discrepancy for why Jones would have a lower score is because Dan Moore only played eight snaps with four of them each being of the run blocking and pass blocking variety where Jones saw a much higher percentage of pass blocking snaps than run blocking snaps.

Other notes are where Kenny Pickett had a 58.2 overall score with a 53.9 passing score but was elevated with a 71.0 rushing score which was highest on the team. What is interesting is that none of the three sacks the Steelers surrendered were credited to any blockers, so they were attributed to Kenny Pickett himself. In fact, this has been an ongoing thing throughout the 2023 season according to PFF:

The best run blocking grade was given to wide receiver Calvin Austin with a 79.6 with Seumalo’s 67.8 coming in second.

To continue to prove my point that PFF is merely an opinion and can be influenced one way or the other, Jaylen Warren‘s pass blocking score this week was a 76.6 while the eye test tells me he was doing much of the same as he was in previous weeks when he was given a terrible score. But when multiple places are considering him as one of the best blitz-pickup running backs, PFF must change their opinion moving forward in order to salvage their credibility. The exact same thing happened last year with Warren being given low scores until Brian Baldinger did a breakdown of how well Warren was doing and PFF changed their tune moving forward.


Defense

Keeanu Benton led the defensive scores with a 78.7 on his 29 snaps which was mostly due to his 77.1 run defense score which was highest on the team. Benton did have a poor tackling score of 36.1, but he was one of eight Steelers defenders with a tackling score less than 40.0.

T.J. Watt was second on the list with a 69.9 overall score but his lowest individual score came with a 57.4 pass rushing score. The only other players with overall scores above a 60.0 were Chandon Sullivan (65.0), Kwon Alexander (64.9), Isaiahh Loudermilk (61.2), and Cole Holcomb (60.2). This showed a big improvement for Loudermilk compared to previous weeks, but he simply didn’t stand out to me in a way that made me notice his play above anyone else on the defensive line.

Alex Highsmith landed toward the bottom of the list with a 49.6 overall score despite having a higher pass rushing score than T.J. Watt with a 63.4. What brought down Highsmith was a coverage score of 48.4 and a run defense score of 46.5.

The worst overall score of the defense went to Patrick Peterson with a 40.0 overall and a 40.2 coverage score. He also had a 24.5 tackling grade which was second lowest of the team only to Joey Porter Jr. who had a 23.1.

Speaking of Porter, his overall grade of 54.1 on his 10 snaps came from his 53.8 coverage score. But comparing him to Levi Wallace, he had a 58.8 overall grade and a 61.0 coverage score. While the overall coverage scores were not good, I’m not willing to say Wallace did a better job than Porter. But Wallace had the third highest coverage score on the team behind Chandon Sullivan (68.8) and, shockingly, Larry Ogunjobi (61.2) on zero coverage snaps. Yes, I’m confused by that as well.


Overall

I skipped special teams this week because nothing really stood out and this will be the case most often. But looking at the scores for Week 4, the fact that none of them were very high is reflective of the Steelers performance. I also feel that the high number of bad tackling scores was very appropriate.

I’ve been on the fence when it comes to Levi Wallace as I feel sometimes he makes a very nice place (like the first one of the game) but other times is not in the best situation. So the fact his score is what it is isn’t overly surprising as I think it’s the consistency factor which he is lacking and with 71 snaps to evaluate things his score is able to average out.

Believe it or not, I don’t see where the scores this week had any glaring issues and adequately reflected a team wide poor performance. Mason Cole’s was a little puzzling, but not one I could make an overly compelling case against.

My grade of this week’s PFF scores: A-

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