On The Steelers And Premature Evaluation

Generally speaking, I have passively been an advocate of Pro Football Focus at times by referencing their data when I see it fit to do so.

I give them credit for taking on the herculean task of cataloging every snap from every team in every game and formulating a comprehensive system of analysis in an admittedly unattainable effort to create an even playing field on which to judge all parties.

I give them credit when I believe they are right. But I’m also not hesitant to dismiss something that I believe they get wrong. In this instance, it’s worth looking at the shortsightedness of featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ‘Losers’ column of a free agency grader article—an article that was written just a week into free agency.

The Steelers are historically a team that is not a major player early in the free agency period to begin with. Judging their offseason strategy after just a week’s time is shortsighted at best. The same could apply to most teams, for that matter.

Consider this: having been written for March 20, the Steelers by then had not yet even added Lance Moore or LeGarrette Blount to the roster, all the while lamenting in the article over the losses of Jonathan Dwyer, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery.

That also leaves out the additions of Arthur Moats, Brice McCain, and Darrius Heyward-Bey; the evaluation is predicated entirely on the re-signing of Jason Worilds—which they denigrate by noting that he never graded “in the green” two games in a row—and the additions of Mike Mitchell and Cam Thomas.

One can see immediately the issue with making snap judgments based on a fraction of the whole experience, as is the case here in this article written just a week or so since the start of free agency.

They write, “the Steelers don’t want to have to be big players in free agency, but their draft failings in recent years means that they needed to be”. Which isn’t entirely true, but never the less they did sign at least one starter from another team and re-signed another key starter from among their own ranks.

Growth is expected from within from the likes of Markus Wheaton, Vince Williams, Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, Mike Adams, and others. The only ‘hole’ remaining at a starting position is defensive end, and if the plug to fill that hole is Brett Keisel, then it’s a matter that can wait. PFF simply doesn’t have a compelling enough understanding of the inner workings of teams to always get everything right.

The release of LaMarr Woodley was a necessity given his injury history, salary cap demands, and other team concerns. Sanders could not be brought back when the team felt he didn’t rise to the required level when given a starting role. Losing out on re-signing Ziggy Hood was very much in part due to the apparent belief within the organization that the position could be improved—which nobody would agree with more than PFF.

They were wrong on this one, and until they stop featuring the article on their front page and provide an updated “Winners and Losers” evaluation of free agency, they deserve to be held accountable for it.

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