Pro Football Focus prides itself on being the only outlet that analyzes every player on every snap of every game. Whether and how much value that brings to the table will vary from person to person. But nevertheless it’s still interesting to see what they have to say from time to time, such as when they announce their ‘team of the week’, which is generally the highest-graded players of the week at each position.
This will surprise nobody, but the Pittsburgh Steelers did have one player make the team of the week for week one, that being outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Ordinarily the outlet would do a more elaborate article touching on each player on the list, but it looks like they’re consolidating multiple efforts into one piece now, with the team of the week being limited to just a list of names.
I do hope that PFF doesn’t continue to limit its team of the week article to just a list of names. Ordinarily, they provide a brief breakdown of the game each player had to earn a spot on the list, and also included those who were runners-up.
But there was plenty else to read in the piece as well. For example, Watt was not only named to the team of the week, he was also named the Defensive MVP of the Week:
Watt kicked off his 2020 campaign with a big-time performance, producing a 93.7 PFF grade on the night that ranked first among all defenders in Week 1. This was the 10th game since the start of the 2019 season in which Watt earned a PFF grade above 80.0 — that’s three more than any other edge defender (Nick and Joey Bosa each have seven). I wouldn’t be shocked if we are all in consensus that Watt is the best edge defender in the NFL by season’s end.
Anybody who watched the Steelers’ game would hardly be surprised to see Watt make the list, even if it might be surprising to those who didn’t watch. While he did have an interception and two total passes defensed during the game, he finished with just one tackle, albeit for a loss, and two quarterback hits.
You probably don’t often see a defender make the team of the week after registering just one tackle all game, but this is perhaps a valuable reminder that statistics only tell part of the story—and the reality is that the action often flowed up the middle. Terrell Edmunds, Devin Bush, and Vince Williams were among the team’s leading tacklers—their two inside linebackers and strong safety. No surprise.
It’s easy to assume that teams are trying to avoid Watt, but the New York Giants’ run directions don’t actually bare that out. In fact, of their 19 attempts, eight came off right tackle or right end—for a combined minus-10 yards. Excluding scrambles, no other direction had more than two carries on the night.
Elsewhere in the division, each of the Steelers’ rivals also made the list with one representative. The Baltimore Ravens had not Lamar Jackson but tight end Mark Andrews on the list, who scored two touchdowns. For the Cincinnati Bengals, third-year safety Jessie Bates III earned the distinction, while Larry Ogunjobi of the Cleveland Browns also made the team of the week.