Every year, Pro Football Focus, as many other venues do, publishes a list of the top players from their perspectives from the previous season. PFF is publishing its own list of the top 101 players in increments over the course of this week, and the second installment, capturing the players checking in between 75 and 51, was released today.
Three members of the Pittsburgh Steelers made that list, and all three of them were also Pro Bowlers. The most distant name in the entry is running back Le’Veon Bell, who makes his third appearance in their top 101 players list, this time at 71.
“Le’Veon Bell‘s production dipped a little in 2017, but he was still one of the game’s most dynamic playmakers when he was in form and was able to handle a monstrous workload for the Steelers all season”, Sam Monson wrote. “He broke 61 total tackles between carries and receptions and had 406 combined touches from scrimmage. Bell dropped just 4-of-89 catchable targets this season”.
An ‘Elite Stat’ is provided for every player, and the one provided for Bell continues on the theme of broken tackles. He forced 44 missed tackles on his 321 carries during the 2017 season (which includes the postseason), which was fourth-most.
Not far ahead of Bell on the list is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, coming in at 68, who makes his sixth appearance on the list. “Ben Roethlisberger appeared to have been toying with retirement for a while and his level of play seemed to be waning along with his desire to play”, Monson wrote, “but he has already confirmed his intention to play in 2018 off the back of a major bounceback season. Roethlisberger ended the year with an overall PFF grade of 88.4 and for a lengthy spell in the middle of the year was the best quarterback in the game”.
As Dave Bryan talked about earlier today, Roethlisberger was more effective using play action this season than a year ago, though it wasn’t much. His ‘Elite Stat’ is his passer rating of 114.7 when using play action, which ranked sixth in the league.
The final player outside of the top 50 for the Steelers on the list is defensive end Cameron Heyward, making his first appearance in the top 101 and checking in at 54. “Another player whose season ended in ignominious circumstances in the playoffs”, Monson wrote, “Cameron Heyward nonetheless had a career year overall and was phenomenal up until that point. Heyward led all interior defenders this season in sacks with 14, but also had nine quarterback knockdowns and 39 hurries for the Steelers”.
It should be noted that PFF registers half-sacks as full sacks, hence the number. Heyward’s ‘Elite Stat’ is his pass-rush productivity of 11.3, which was third-best among interior defenders.
There are still 50 slots to go, but likely there will only be two Steelers remaining, those being wide receiver Antonio Brown and guard David DeCastro. Each of them won PFF’s annual award for the best wide receiver and interior lineman, respectively.