Pro Football Focus recently published a list of the top 50 players that they expect to be the best in the league for the 2019 season. Nobody on the Pittsburgh Steelers made the list, even though they had seven players make the Pro Bowl and have something like a dozen who have been to the Pro Bowl in the past two years.
JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 111 passes for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns as a second-year player in 2018. He is almost unanimously regarded as one of the league’s rising stars and, now emerging out of the shadow of Antonio Brown after the latter was traded, there is nothing limiting his production.
He did not make the list.
Neither did David DeCastro, who should have made the All-Pro list once again, or Maurkice Pouncey, who did for the first time since 2014. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for over 5000 yards and a career-high 34 touchdown passes, also did not make the top 50.
But he did make the top 60, because the site also published a list of the top 10 player who missed the cut, and ol’ Big Ben was on it, coming in at number 56, which was one spot behind the Atlanta Falcons’ own quarterback, Matt Ryan.
“Like Ryan, Roethlisberger still turned in an above average season; it just wasn’t the standard we’ve come to expect from him”, the article reads. “He earned the lowest overall grade (78.2) and passing grade (75.2) we’ve seen from him since his 2011 campaign”.
As we’ve seen from their analysis elsewhere, the site was critical in particular of his ball security last season, having one of the highest percentages of turnover-worthy throws in the league in 2018. He led the NFL with 16 interceptions, but he also put a dangerously high percentage of passes into harm’s way overall.
The entry also includes the following excerpt from the site’s QB Annual:
Roethlisberger got off to a sloppy start, where he was forcing throws left and right into coverage, and his timing and accuracy were all over the place – especially down the field. He cleaned up his game in the middle part of the season with a mix of a quick passing attack and better accuracy on throws of 20-plus yards. Inconsistency throughout a game was the common theme for this year, as they are for many years when he doesn’t play up to a top-10 standard – with poor decisions under duress late in the play, sloppy ball location at times and then bouncing back to make a big play when it was needed.
Not gonna lie, that pretty much sounds about right. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t still put him in the top 50. Six quarterbacks made the top 50, and PFF ultimately has him eighth at the position projected for 2019.