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Cam Heyward leads the Steelers midseason defensive PFF grades

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By: Dave.Schofield

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, the Steelers defensive captain has the top score for the defense on the season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have reached the midpoint of the 2022 season. With 18 weeks of games (17 games and one bye), the midpoint comes following Week 9 and heading into Week 10 regardless of when teams have their bye. With the Steelers bye in Week 9, they head into the second half of the season after a much-needed break.

Being the midway point of the season, it’s a good time to check in and see where the Steelers players stand at this point of the year. That’s right, it’s time to check the cumulative grades for each player through eight games.

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 1 through Week 8 performances. This time, there are the combined scores from all regular season performances. 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 at this point of the season.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up is the defense. Included will be any players who played at least 10 snaps on defense and the total snap counts for each player will be included. Even players such as T.J. Watt, who only played in one game, will have his score included. For reference sake, the Steelers have played 557 snaps on defense so far this season.


Top 5 (regardless of position)

DT Cam Heyward: 88.0 (393 snaps)
OLB T. J. Watt: 84.6 (66 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 77.0 (424 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 76.9 (482 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 74.0 (484 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 45.4 (248 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 45.3 (12 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 44.5 (240 snaps)
S Tre Norwood: 34.5 (227 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 30.3 (176 snaps)

Defensive Front Five

DT Cam Heyward: 88.0 (393 snaps)
OLB T.J. Watt: 84.6 (66 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 74.0 (484 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 68.9 (232 snaps)
OLB Malik Reed: 62.0 (313 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 61.7 (287 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 61.1 (50 snaps)
DT DeMarvin Leal: 57.7 (96 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 51.3 (122 snaps)
OLB Ryan Anderson: 50.2 (28 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 47.6 (65 snaps)
OLB Delontae Scott: 46.6 (16 snaps)
DT Carlos Davis: 45.3 (12 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 30.3 (176 snaps)

The Steelers captain comes in on top and it’s not that much of a surprise. In fact, it’s the highest overall grade on offense or defense. And seeing T.J. Watt in the top five despite only playing one game is really no surprise. Hopefully he can come back into the lineup at the same level. If the Steelers only had the top 6–8 players on this list healthy and in a rotation, it would be quite the defensive front. We’ll see how it all plays out in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, it looks like Tyson Alualu has lost his battle with Father Time.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Myles Jack: 56.5 (488 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 54.1 (366 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 44.5 (240 snaps)

All three of these scores come in below the line, but there’s a little bit more to them. Myles Jack had a string of three good games starting in Week 5, but his 26.9 score against the Eagles dropped him down significantly. As for Devin Bush, his scores have improved over the last three weeks but seems to have a high score every other game. Bush has one of the best tackling scores on the team at 83.4 only behind Minkah Fitzpatrick, but his coverage score is 49.7. As for Robert Spillane, his scores have been consistently low each game with the exception of Buffalo.

Defensive Backs

CB Cam Sutton: 77.0 (424 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 76.9 (482 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 73.1 (453 snaps)
S Miles Killebrew: 70.5 (13 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 65.0 (150 snaps)
CB Josh Jackson: 63.4 (85 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 52.9 (303 snaps)
CB Quincy Wilson: 52.7 (11 snaps)
CB Levi Wallace: 48.2 (287 snaps)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon: 45.4 (248 snaps)
S Tre Norwood: 34.5 (227 snaps)

There’s a lot that can be taken out of this position group. First, if T.J. Watt would not have been included in the top five, the last spot would have gone to Terrell Edmunds. With Sutton, Fitzpatrick, and Edmunds all scoring well, it seems like it would make for a strong secondary. But then there are problems. Miles Killebrew checks in with a great score but with only 13 snaps. More snaps for him would probably not equate to the same success and using him in the way they do, however sparingly, is probably the best course. Unfortunately, the Steelers other players of the secondary with significant snaps played come in below the line. Arthur Maulet’s score isn’t great but isn’t that bad. But when the Steelers signed both Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon to the same deals in the offseason, they were hoping to get more out of the other cornerback spot opposite of Sutton. We’ll see how things go in the second half of the season and if William Jackson III could help.

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.

Originally posted on Behind the Steel Curtain – All Posts