During the course of this offseason, Pro Football Focus has been going team by team examining their projected depth charts prior to free agency and assigning player grades on a six item scale ranging from Elite to Poor, with the Unknown classification used for players who have not seen a significant amount of playing time.
Yesterday was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ turn to have their roster evaluated, and you can be the judge of how fair or accurate the site’s grading is. Overall, the team was awarded two Elite players, three Very Good, nine Good, eight Average, seven Below Average, and two Poor. The Steelers had 26 Unknown commodities, including three players the site penciled into the starting lineup.
The list does not include pending free agents, which, for example, ravages the team’s depth at outside linebacker, with the exclusion of Jason Worilds, James Harrison, and Arthur Moats.
Starting at the top, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown were awarded the Elite designation. I would argue that running back Le’Veon Bell also deserves to be considered an Elite player at his position, even without the longevity factor. The site did award Elite status to rookies, so this oversight is not excused by arguing for experience.
Bell was one of the three Very Good players, however, with the other two being split between offense and defense. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right defensive end Cameron Heyward were designated Very Good as well. I think Heyward’s status goes without saying. Due to Beachum’s less than stellar run blocking, however, I and others could likely not bat an eye if he were deemed merely Good. Lawrence Timmons and Maurkice Pouncey could make the argument that they deserve to be considered Very Good as well.
They are two of nine Good players, which also includes Heath Miller, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, William Gay, Troy Polamalu, Shaun Suisham, and Greg Warren. I have no issue with any of those grades, but I would argue that Steve McLendon also belongs on the list.
Ramon Foster was the lone Average player along the offensive line. Joining him are McLendon, Will Johnson, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Mike Mitchell, Cody Wallace, and Vince Williams. With the exception of McLendon, these grades all sound fair to me. Bryant should elevate himself to at least Good in his sophomore season, and one would certainly hope that Mitchell could reach that level as well.
The nine Below Average to Poor players are Cortez Allen, Jarvis Jones, Stephon Tuitt, Brad Wing, Bruce Gradkowski, Brett Keisel, Sean Spence, Cam Thomas, and Mike Adams.
I believe that Tuitt should have been considered an Unknown, even with five starts at the end of the year. Below Average is a bit harsh for Keisel and Spence, as well. The rest—with the last two being Poor—seem fair to me. Gradkowski would be a Below Average starter, but he is a Good backup.
In the starting lineup as Unknown are Antwon Blake, Ryan Shazier, and Jordan Zumwalt. Zumwalt is listed at outside linebacker due to depth.