PFF: Steelers Have NFL’s Biggest Drop In WAR From Last Season After Nelson Release

Mike Tomlin

It’s become a pretty universally held belief at this point that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had a rough offseason. After all, when factoring in free agency, retirement, and releases, they have lost eight starters from a year ago so far: tight end Vance McDonald; center Maurkice Pouncey; left guard Matt Feiler; defensive tackle Tyson Alualu; linebacker Vince Williams; edge defender Bud Dupree; cornerback Steven Nelson; and slot cornerback Mike Hilton.

Add in the pending free agent statuses of left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and running back James Conner and the starter departure count could still climb up to 10, which is a pretty staggering number. Given that they are a bargain-shopping team in free agency, then, it’s not a surprise that their roster has looked ravaged.

In fact, nobody has fared worse so far this offseason, according to Pro Football Focus, at least based on their ‘PFF WAR’ measure, which is a Wins Above Replacement statistic calculated based on their own player grades.

Since the start of free agency, they have been running an Improvement Index, measuring how teach team’s collective PFF WAR has changed since last season, and the Steelers have experienced the worst regression of any team in the league following the release of Nelson, whom they followed at 0.2 WAR.

Overall, their WAR has declined by 0.35, which is actually ever so slightly less than the 0.36 decline seen by the New Orleans Saints and their massive culling, but by percentage of reduction, the Steelers’ represents a larger share of their overall WAR.

It’s worth noting that the Houston Texans are sitting right there at -0.34, and given that there still seems to be a fabulous chance that Deshaun Watson will not be quarterback them in the future, it stands to reason that their WAR will take a major hit and stand out as by far the worst.

Of course, this is all pending literally everything else that happens during an offseason, like, say, I don’t know, the NFL Draft, which is where the Steelers have always built their teams from, at least in the modern era.

It was a given that there would be major departures this offseason, but for the most part, they have options. Kevin Dotson will replace Matt Feiler, for example. Alex Highsmith will pick up for Dupree. Cameron Sutton takes over for Steven Nelson.

Granted, there are still some unresolved questions, but we’re literally just a couple of weeks into the offseason and lots of moves are still being made. At some point between now and the start of the regular season, they’re bound to add another center, another cornerback, another pass rusher.

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