Pro Football Focus Offers Analysis Of Steelers’ Projected Lineup

By Matthew Marczi

The statistics website Pro Football Focus has been running a series early this offseason projecting the starting lineups of each team—sans pending free agents—and grading each player on a sliding scale from “Poor Starter/Gamble” to “Elite Starter”, with “Unknown” also factored into the equation.

Yesterday was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ turn to receive this treatment, and quite frankly, I believe their assessment is largely both fair and accurate.

It’s worth keeping in mind, again, that this lineup excludes all pending free agents, including Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel, Al Woods, Jason Worilds, Ryan Clark, etc.

While the site doesn’t give the elite status to any of the players on the roster, it does indicate that Antonio Brown has the potential to reach that status. The three “High Quality” starters on the team are Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, and Brown.

Pro Football Focus notes, however, that David DeCastro, LaMarr Woodley, and Cameron Heyward are all “Solid” starters with the potential to reach “High Quality”. Woodley, of course, would be attempting to scale that precipice again after a series of injuries have reduced his impact in recent years.

The other three “Solid” starters include Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Lawrence Timmons. It’s noteworthy that five players on the roster, namely Le’Veon Bell, Kelvin Beachum, Marcus Gilbert, Heath Miller, and Steve McLendon have the potential to ascend to “Solid Starter”.

By far the most numerous are the “Adequate Starter”-quality players on the roster, with the five aforementioned with the potential to ascend being joined by three others: Will Johnson, Cortez Allen, and William Gay.

The Steelers do have four players listed as a “Below Average Starter”. Those four players are Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, Jarvis Jones, and Markus Wheaton, though the latter two are considered as players with the potential to ascend to “Adequate Starter” this season.

Nobody was slighted with the “Poor Starter” designation, though thanks to the free agency situation, there are three starters penciled in about which not enough is known: Brian Arnfelt, Shamarko Thomas, and Derek Moye.

Of course, it’s a virtual certainty that neither Moye nor Arnfelt will find themselves starting once players like Cotchery and a defensive end or two are re-signed, though Thomas starting at safety is certainly possible. Why Thomas is an unknown but Wheaton is not is somewhat unclear to me.

As I said, by and large I believe that Pro Football Focus accurately summarized the Steelers’ roster as it sits right now, and there’s not much I would take issue with. Here is their overall summary of the roster:

Without much by way of gray (unknowns) or orange (subpar starters) on this chart Pittsburgh find themselves with a reasonably talented roster that with the right investment could see the Steelers elevate themselves back towards the top of the AFC North at the very least in 2014. Led by the ever excellent Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers also have quality in some of the key spots that has ensured that even through their “struggles” missing the playoffs in two straight seasons they have never bottomed out.

While I don’t find any of these categorizations egregious, there are a few suggestions that I would offer. For example, I think it would be more than fair to say that Roethlisberger has the potential to be an “Elite Starter”. Pouncey certainly deserves to be credited with the potential to be a “High Quality Starter”, as well as Timmons.

Perhaps “Poor Starter” without any qualification for the potential to be an “Adequate Starter” is a bit extreme for Taylor and Foote, though at this point I’m sure many will be in agreement with the site on these two players.

Some of their categorizations I find to be quite astute, however. For example, giving McLendon credit for the ability to ascend to “Solid Starter”, or noting the same for the two tackles.  Foster is properly recognized as a solid starter while Miller is recognized as having the potential to regain some of his old form after working through a season coming off a knee injury. Overall, Pro Football Focus was more astute than I expected them to be.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Jazz

    Maurkice Pouncey is over-rated; Troy has reached Father Time, LaMarr Woodley is injury prone. Pouncey? I get so sick and tired of people praising these players for having one good year, yes, I said it! One Good Year and that’s it.

  • CrazyTerry

    Looks someone else hasn’t fallen for theTimmons hype. He is a pretty good player, but homers make him out to be the best MLB in the game. How many games has he been that guy the other offense has been scared of?

  • Steelers12328882

    Everything I agree with too, for the most part, except I think Cortez Allen should have been given the potential to become a solid starter.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    THE TEAM IS ONLY 2 INJURIES FROM GOING 2 AND 14. Ben and Brown. As the roster is today.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I’d replace Brown with Ike. Having Cortez face the opposing #1 WRs is terrifying.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    Glad I’m not the only one who thinks that about Pouncey. Watching the tape he’s hardly a lockdown C that he is billed to be.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I wonder how much of that is his ability and the lack of ability next to him. Even when Farrior was next to him, he was no longer a stud at the position.

  • LayDownTheHammer

    Gilbert. Haha. Arguably the laziest sack of crap in the entire team. If he had half the work ethic as Ike or A. Brown I wouldn’t vomit every time we play against a skilled edge rusher.

  • steelster

    So the Cleveland Browns have 6 pro bowl players and the steelers only have 9 solid players and above. Sounds like the steelers may finish in last place in 2014, hope not.

  • Matt Manzo

    Shamarko and Wheaton should be the same.

  • RyanW

    Ben shouls be given the elite status no question. We wouldve finished with less than 4 wins if it wasnt for Ben. Also to those who say Timmons is overrated go watch some tape. Hes not Patrick Willis but hes not used the same either hes one of easily the top 2 or 3 most important players on our defense. Always underappreciated. If he ever goes down to injury then maybe hell get the appreciation he deserves.

  • Aric Brown

    Lawrence Timmons is one of the top MLBs in the game period.. numbers don’t lie.. the tape don’t lie… does he over pursue ya… but so does Troy who is another top player at his position

  • Aric Brown

    I dont think Ben should be given elite status… but I think he should be given the potential to be elite… I am a huge supporter of Big Ben and he has developed into an Elite Potential QB BUT…. every year he leaves you scratching your head (at least) 3 or 4 times saying what were you thinking there Ben? and players given elite status without question don’t typically do that

  • Aric Brown

    I’m with you there… Cortez was supposed to be our breakout player this past year.. but all he did was make me even more worried about the future of our secondary

  • cp72

    Yeah but Roethlisberger also 7 or 8 times a year does something amazing and you go how the hell did he do that. He’s elite no question. If you have to pick a quarterback to win you a game name me 5 guys you rather have then Ben.

  • Richie


  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    R. Hood, S. Holmes, P. Bunyan, B. Boru and E. T. Red

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Thanks, Matthew. I like that site as it’s a good way to quickly take a look at other teams I am less familiar with to assess what they have and their potential. It is pretty scary though when you look at other teams compared to the Steelers. What I mean by that is when you consider the cap space or lack thereof when comparing teams.

    As an example I took a look at some teams that are the laughing stocks of the NFL for all intents and purposes. Reggie MacKenzie will probably take about 3 to 4 years to turn the Raiders around from their previous hell with no picks and no cap. Currently about $45 Million under the cap. Interesting. Same with Cleveland, as people should be tripping over each other trying to land those jobs there, if not for the owner having lost his mind.

    That’s why I keep thinking about the big picture for the Steelers. They will eventually offload the old guard with the big cap hits (I wish they would get rid of a couple right now) and be in a much more enviable position with regard to making some moves that help win the next championship.

    Oh, how I envy cap space!

  • Aric Brown

    I definitely can’t name 5… I used to not be able to name 1… man I miss those 4th quarter drives

  • RyanW

    I can think of PLENTY of times Brady Brees Rogers and Peyton the so called elite QBs have left me scratching my head and wondering what were they thinking. Elite doesnt mean mistake free. They make just as many mistakes as Ben does. No question.

  • Chris

    Did you watch Ike play this year? Having him off the field might gain us a win or two

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I’m questioning whether you watched Cortez display his “cover skills” this year. He’s the main reason Ike is still, and should be, #1.