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Which Steelers are elite?

Ray Fittipaldo 7 years ago

Pro Football Focus is doing its popular depth chart series this winter and they unveiled their ratings for all returning Steelers players this morning.

Pro Football Focus rates each player in one of seven categories: elite, very good, good, average, below average, poor and unknown.

The Steelers have two elite players in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and three very good players in Le’Veon Bell, Kelvin Beachum and Cam Heyward. Only two players received poor ratings – backups Mike Adams and Cam Thomas.

Here are some of my thoughts on the ratings the Steelers received:

Roethlisberger and Brown – These were pretty much no-brainers in the elite category. Brown made first-team All-Pro and recorded 129 receptions, the second-most in NFL history. And Roethlisberger had his best statistical season of his career.

Bell – Bell also made first-team All-Pro, but he was listed in the very good category. PFF said he is in the discussion for best running back in the game, but did not explain why he fell short of the elite rating. I strongly disagree with this one. Bell might have missed a few holes on occasion this season, but his body of work as a runner and pass receiver last season easily made him elite in my book. I’ll have to sift through their depth charts for every team and see which running backs are elite. It’s hard to fathom who made that list ahead of Bell. 

Heyward – PFF got this one right. He is one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the game and he’ll get rewarded with a big contract this summer.

Beachum – He is the highest-rated offensive lineman on the team, ahead of All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro. PFF praised Beachum’s pass protection, calling it “fantastic”. I’m a Beachum fan, but part of being a good offensive lineman is working well with your teammates and Beachum and left guard Ramon Foster had trouble all season picking up stunts. I guess I really don’t have a problem with PFF calling Beachum very good. My problem is Pouncey being rated in the good category.

Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert – All three were given the good rating. PFF has never been a fan of Pouncey, but they finally called him a good player. The perennial All-Pro player might not always live up to the hype, but last season I thought he deserved to be in the very good category. He sometimes struggles against the larger and stronger nose guards, but more often than not he’s holding up in pass protection and is a positive player in the run game. I don’t have a problem with DeCastro and Gilbert being in this category, but I think DeCastro is closer to being very good than Gilbert. I’m higher on DeCastro than a lot of people. I thought his pass protection really improved from 2013 to 2014.  

Heath Miller – He also falls in the good category. This is about right for Miller, whose hands remain good but gets little yardage after the catch. He remains very solid in the run game, too.

Troy Polamalu – This one might spark some debate. PFF still has Polamalu in the good category. They acknowledge he is most effective in the box but still had him as their No. 9 safety in 2014. Debate away, but the lack of splash plays tends to make me think he is a tad overrated for his 2015 performance.

Lawrence Timmons – He made his first Pro Bowl this year, but PFF only placed him in the good category. I thought he was better in 2014 than 2013, but I don’t have a big problem with this rating. I think people around here tend to overrate Timmons a bit, but there is no denying he has been a very solid player for a long time.

Foster – The lowest-rated member of the offensive line came in at average. This is about right. For a team that used to have its line ridiculed having the lowest-rated lineman at average is pretty darn good.

Click on the link above for the rest of their ratings and post your reaction below.