In ranking all NFL rosters before the draft, the Steelers land in the 18th spot.
Much like grading an NFL team’s draft in any given year in the days following the event, determining the value of every teams roster during the offseason is nothing more than speculation. In many cases there is an indication based on past play, but even how well a player is performing and their trajectory can sometimes be debatable.
Enter the NFL‘s biggest speculator in many eyes known as Pro Football Focus. Determining player grades every game as well as for an entire season is what PFF is known for, and speculating how teams will perform based on this grades is something they love to do in the offseason.
This time, PFF has taken a stab at ranking every NFL teams roster before the 2021 NFL draft. Knowing how PFF has their favorites when it comes to teams and players, exactly where each team lies may not be much a surprise.
Once again, the Cleveland Browns are assumed to have a fantastic roster as has been the case for a number of years despite the fact they just had their first winning season in over a decade. PFF has decided to place the Browns in the second spot only behind the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
— PFF (@PFF) April 23, 2021
Now that we have an indication of where PFF is going with their list, it’s interesting to see how much of their supposed dislike for the Steelers will help determine where they fall in their eyes. Surprisingly, they fall almost in the middle of the NFL they are ranked 18th out of the 32 teams.
Here is the breakdown from Pro Football Focus when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Pittsburgh’s defensive line is easily the NFL’s best. Bud Dupree’s replacement, Alex Highsmith, might even be better than the new Tennessee Titan. Highsmith’s pass-rush grade as a rookie in 2020 was over 10 grading points higher than Dupree’s before he got hurt. The Steelers’ defense as a whole should be soild, but the offense is on shaky ground, especially with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.
Big Ben’s decline in 2020 was apparent; his 68.3 passing grade marked his lowest-graded season since his 2006 campaign, and he relied on short, quick throws seemingly because of his waning arm strength.
As many Steeler fans know, PFF has had no love for Bud Dupree over the years. Despite his improved player over the last several seasons, he continues to have low scores on their player rankings. Therefore, replacing Dupree with the highly ranked Alex Highsmith actually is an improvement to the roster in the eyes of Pro Football Focus. While this may be accurate, it will be due to the quality play of Highsmith, not because of their low evaluation of Dupree.
Of course, Ben Roethlisberger is going to be the biggest knock on the roster they have. What is interesting is it they have made the determination that Ben Roethlisberger‘s quick release is a byproduct of his arm strength rather than an attempt to keep him upright due to questionable offensive line play, or even just the offensive philosophy of the departed coordinator.
As we all know, players with no arm strength can make throws like this:
Remember, that 39-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Diontae Johns came in Week 16, so it’s not like it was a throw before some kind of regression anyone caims happened over the course of the season. And while Roethlisberger does have a lot to prove when it comes to his ability to consistently make these types of throws, I wouldn’t count him out just yet.
While you can feel free to take as much stock in PFF’s prediction of roster strength as you like, it is merely information put out there for your benefit to draw your own conclusion. And while Steelers fans know that there are holes in the roster at this time, this franchise has proved many times over the years that they will continue to build their team in order to be as competitive as possible by the time the regular season comes around. Ranking the rosters before the season is all we have now, but seeing how these rankings progress throughout 2021 will be the real test.