Back in March, prior to the start of free agency, Pro Football Focus took a stab at measuring each team’s depth chart heading into the 2015 football calendar. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not necessarily receive glowing reviews, and, given the fact that they did not add much in free agency, it’s unsurprising that the site doesn’t believe they’ve improved much.
At that time, PFF took an overview of the roster and determined that the Steelers had three players that they deemed below average in the starting lineup on defense. That would technically remain true if their listings were accurate.
The three below average players in the starting lineup in March were Cortez Allen, Stephon Tuitt, and Jarvis Jones. PFF lists James Harrison (listed as good) in the starting lineup, however, even though the belief is that this will not be the case.
As I noted back in March, a below average grade seems unfair for Tuitt, even if he did end up logging a fair number of snaps by the end of the season. He did make his fair share of mistakes, but I would probably have been comfortable determining his level of play as average.
The marks for Allen and Jones, until proven otherwise, on the other hand, seem fair. The former was demoted twice because of his play at a position that they could ill afford to do so. Jones, meanwhile, had a couple of bright spots early before his injury, after which he struggled. The end of his story is very much to be determined.
So what’s changed in the lineup since then, other than incorrectly listing Harrison over Jones? On offense, the re-signing of Matt Spaeth, listed as average, and the addition of DeAngelo Williams, also average, were the only notable moves. Also of note is that they shifted the below average grade of Bruce Gradkowski to not enough info.
On defense, the re-signing of Arthur Moats places him (also listed as average) in the starting lineup. PFF had Jordan Zumwalt listed there as a placeholder, even though he is an inside linebacker, and not an outside linebacker.
In terms of changes of their own, PFF changed Antwon Blake’s rating from not enough info to evaluate up to average. They list him as the left cornerback, with William Gay (listed as good) in the slot, although Blake is the sub-package player.
Curiously, the site felt that they had enough information to grade Tuitt, but not Ryan Shazier, who started five games as a rookie. He is listed in the starting lineup. For depth along the defensive line, the below average listed Brett Keisel has been replaced with the below average listed Clifton Geathers, while Cam Thomas has been demoted to third-team nose tackle (one of two poor players on the team, the other being Mike Adams).
If you’re looking to criticize the site for not having intimate knowledge of all 32 teams, you can start with the fact that they have failed to correct the fact that Alejandro Villanueva is playing offensive tackle for the Steelers, and not defensive end, the same mistake that they made in March.
They also list Ross Ventrone at cornerback, and Zumwalt is still listed outside, while Roosevelt Nix is still showing up as an inside linebacker. Joe Kruger is listed as an outside linebacker, while Anthony Chickillo is listed as a defensive end.