Pro Football Focus might not be a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ front seven just yet, whose best football is certainly ahead of it rather than behind, but the site did take kindly recently to their quarterback group, ranking the Steelers’ group of pass slingers third in the league.
That rank fell behind only the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, helmed, of course, by Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, respectively, two quarterbacks who have earned both season and Super Bowl MVP honors.
The article cites Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s excellent deep ball accuracy last season as a key reason for the ranking, with the Pro Bowler throwing accurate balls on over half of his passes that traveled 20 or more air yards.
PFF believes Roethlisberger is “playing the best football of his career, despite beginning to get up there in years”. The former 2004 first-round draft pick recently turned 34 this offseason and is one of the older starting quarterbacks in the league.
Roethlisberger “formed a nearly unstoppable combination with WR Antonio Brown” last season, the article goes on, noting that he completed 68 percent of his passes and that he “has developed into a quarterback capable of making all types of throws”.
There is some worry, however, about his endurance at this stage of his career after a season plagued with injuries that caused him to miss four games and five starts, as well as bits of a few other games, and the author writes that he “may not be quite as durable and capable of taking the hits he invites by extending plays as he was during his younger years”.
When it comes to the backup position, the author understandably is concerned about the performance level of fourth-year quarterback Landry Jones, who received his first bit of playing time last season, though he was ultimately the team’s fourth option to play.
If Roethlisberger goes down, “the Steelers are not in nearly as good shape”, he writes, “with Landry Jones proven to be a major drop-off, and about the only thing that can slow down Brown’s dominance”.
When it comes to the backups ahead of the team on the list, the author describes Packers reserve Brett Hundley as “a talented athlete that many are high on, but a player that did not ‘wow’ in grading terms in his final college season.
As for Jimmy Garoppolo, who will have to start at least four games if Brady’s suspension is upheld, the author warns that his starting stint “will likely only be reminded of how integral Brady is to the success and efficiency of that system”. Still, that doesn’t sound as bad as how Jones was characterized.
I have written before about how I believe the Steelers should feel somewhat uncomfortable about their current backup quarterback situation, which is as shaky as it has been entering training camp since Roethlisberger entered the league. But the quarterback at the top is more than enough to raise the entire unit to top three in the league.