Say what you will about Pro Football Focus—and you inevitably will—but they are the only venue that takes as in-depth a look at every player’s every snap of every game as they do, so that in itself holds some value. For us, we aren’t able to get too far past the Pittsburgh Steelers, but then, what would the point of that be for a site dedicated to one team?
Anyway, the site uses its wide scope to try to bring into a narrower focus specific players that they believe stood out, after each weekend putting together what they call a Team of the Week, and for the week of the second preseason games, the Steelers were represented by two players, one on each side of the ball.
I’m sure you can guess who got the recognition for their standout performance on the offensive side of the ball. That could only be rookie wide receiver James Washington, who went off in the second half on Thursday against the Green Bay Packers, finishing the game with five receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, featuring three impressive plays on deep passes.
Receiving a grade of 88.2, the site wrote of Washington that he “was a force on the deep ball and on contested catches [in college]. He proved he still has those skills at the NFL level, scoring twice on badly-thrown passes where he simply outmuscled the defensive back at the catch point”.
Also receiving recognition for his play was rookie college free agent inside linebacker Matthew Thomas, who was given a grade of 86.7 for his work against the Packers in the second half of Thursday night’s game, which featured defensive highlights that were few and far between to say the least.
“With a Steelers linebacker corps crying out for an injection of speed and athleticism since the loss of Ryan Shazier to injury, Thomas made a good case for playing time this week”, his entry reads. “He played well against the run, but with Green Bay tight ends torching Steelers defenders all night, Thomas was most impressive earning a pass breakup down the right sideline as he split out wide to track TE Kevin Rader down field on a well-thrown deep shot”.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Packers also had a number of representatives on the team of the week list, from all three phases. Wide receiver Jake Kumerow, who had a long breakaway touchdown, represented the offense, while defensive backs Josh Jackson and Tramon Williams, who both returned interceptions for touchdowns, represented the defense. Kicker Mason Crosby hit several long field goals to earn his spot on the list.