I wrote an article yesterday highlighting the fact that Pro Football Focus listed the performance of Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier against the Bengals in the 2015 Wildcard game as the best by a player at his position since the site began tracking data, beginning with the 2006 season.
Evidently, this is something that the site is doing now to fill some of the dead air between now and the start of OTAs, and frankly it would be disingenuous to deny that we are doing a bit of the same. But the point is that they followed up with more Tweets in that series, and a couple of more Steelers made the list.
Within their tracking data, the site listed James Harrison’s performance against the Dolphins in the 2016 Wildcard game as the third-best by an edge defender in the PFF era, earning a 92.5 grade. Later in the day, another post came listing Troy Polamalu’s 2008 AFC Conference Championship performance against the Ravens as the greatest by a safety since they began tracking data.
The highest-graded playoff performances by edge defenders since 2006: pic.twitter.com/44TeHXTZuq
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 17, 2017
I recognize that a lot of people are not fans of the site, and they consider these grades arbitrary at best, but to those people I would just suggest using this opportunity to reminisce about these performances as they spring back into memory thanks to the reminder from PFF.
It would be easier to start with the more recent game of the two, since, really, it kind of just happened. Harrison at the age of 38 was a dominant presence against the Dolphins just four months ago, recording in that game 10 tackles to go along with a sack and a half and a forced fumble.
As was the case with Shazier, I conveniently did a film analysis of Harrison’s performance against the Dolphins, which can be viewed here. I wrote in the piece at the time that he was “arguably the best player on the field—best defensive player, anything—for either team”, though in hindsight I don’t think it was all that arguable. He was the best defensive player on the field. Maybe the best player period, even with Antonio Brown’s two early touchdowns.
I wasn’t around the site in 2008—I’m actually not 100 percent sure as I write this that we actually go back that far—to cover Polamalu’s game in 2008, but I don’t think I need to remind anybody about how critical that performance was, which, by the way, earned him a grade of 99.9.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 18, 2017
While Polamlau recorded only four tackles in that game, he had two passes defensed, as well as the critical 40-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed the Steelers’ victory and sent them off to the Super Bowl.
It was one of the greatest and most memorable moments in team history, certainly within the past couple of decades—and coincidentally, Harrison would have another of them in the Super Bowl, bettering his future Hall-of-Fame teammate with a 100-yard interception returned for a touchdown.