You’ve probably read a couple of articles in recent days covering Pro Football Focus’ unveiling of their list of the top 101 players of the 2017 season, a list that factors in only the 2017 season, but does also factor in the playoffs, not just the regular season.
The value of said list is subjective, as are all such lists. Mileage varies quite a bit when it comes to how seriously people take Pro Football Focus in particular. There is still something of a stigma about what they do, as well as who they are—or were—seen as outsiders who don’t actually understand the game.
I tend to take more of a middle ground approach with their work. Some of if can be valuable—personally speaking, I’m excited about their recent announcement of the return of their Premium Stats feature for subscriber, which provides less subjective data—but either way, it is still worth covering.
Long story short, five members of the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up making their list of the top 101 players. Antonio Brown was the only one in the top 10, while David DeCastro was the only other one in the top 50—let alone the top 20. But Cameron Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger, and Le’Veon Bell were also included on the list.
When the site completed its rankings list, there was also a follow-up article that listed the 10 players that came closest to making the list, presumably with the implication that they have a strong chance of making it in 2018.
Among those 10 players on the list was Stephon Tuitt, who is Heyward’s partner in crime along the defensive line for the Steelers. Tuitt entered his fourth season in 2017, and his first after signing a big extension, but it did not go down as planned.
“Yet another player whose lasting playoff image was difficult to shake”, his entry reads. “Tuitt would have likely been in the 90’s had his season ended in Week 17, but he was one of the many in the Steelers front seven members who got manhandled against the Jaguars in the playoffs. It was his lowest-graded game of the season and bumped him off the 101”.
In that postseason game, both Tuitt and Heyward were credited by the site with just one pressure on 26 pass-rush snaps. He officially registered three tackles in the game, including two primary tackles and one assist.
Tuitt suffered an arm injury literally on the second play from scrimmage of the season, which caused him to miss the rest of that game and the next two games. A later back injury caused him to miss more time in the first half of the season, though he remained on the field during the second half of the year.
There are many, including select beat writers, who believe, however, that one or both of Tuitt’s injuries had prolonged effects on him throughout the season and showed up in his play.