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.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Steelers12328882

    I think the Steelers have done well for what they had to work with, but I’m still a bit lost as to what we’re doing at DE. I’d love to see an article listing all the possible players in the upcoming draft that can play DE for us. Of course I know about Tuitt, Hageman and a few others like Kareem Martin, Will Clarke, Brent Urban and Ed Stinson but I’m generally lost as to who’s capable of playing the position. Resigning Keisel would seem like a no-brainer and I’m sure we’ll be hoping for the best out of Arnfelt and Williams, but you have to imagine the Steelers will select a DE high in the draft and possibly take a shot at one later in the draft as well.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Everything depends on how we look at things. We lost a few guys we couldn’t afford and a few we did want back but just didn’t get the job done and a few in which we had no interest in. By saying that, the guys we picked up, other teams did not want and were on FA and most were there for awhile. Looking at what we lost and for what we lost them for and what we picked up and what we paid I cannot say we were winners. We lost 5 starters from last year and a few major role players. We picked up 1 starter and a couple of guys that may start but are not what seems to be starter material. Although most of those guys we did not want, I find it hard to justify that we are winners when we did not pick up guys who can step in and start. When you are a fan of a team you tend to have hope that someone will step up or that the FA pick will work but we have far too many questions for all of them to work out for us to have a great year despite what optimism says

  • steeltown

    Ha..they made judgment on March 20th?…that’s a little premature…
    I still cant get over how infatuated everyone is all of a sudden with guys like Cotchery, Dwyer and the DL losses.. don’t get me wrong, I have always liked Cotch and have always rooted for Dwyer, but we’re one year removed from most not caring whether they were even on roster or not

  • steeltown

    Very true… hopefully we can get our hands on someone like Tuitt. I like the potential of N.Williams and Arnfelt, but in reality we should probably only expect one of them to succeed and actually be able to contribute at a high level, if we’re lucky

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    I concur with you about the ” expected growth part”, however I expect the growth to come from Wheaton, Williams and Bell, not so much from Adams and Jones. Adams has shown very little in the way of talent and Jones was pretty much a bad pick. Oh, I am sure at some point they will become usable backups until replaced by real talent but who knows when that will be. Every draft should be about drafting better players than we have, has not happened that way for several years now. A lot of people want to excuse Jones because of the myth that the defense is so complicated, the myth lives on, what is so tough about the 3 primary assignments, rush the QB, set the edge against the run and drop into a short zone in pass d.

  • steeltown

    I have to disagree, looking at the facts and not just being overly optimistic, we didn’t “lose” 5 starters, we released or didn’t resign half of the guys that are gone, namely Woodley, Clark and Sanders… who are the other starters? Cotchery, Dwyer, Hood and Woods were not starters or had atleast lost their starting roles at some point.

    About picking up guys that other Teams didn’t want, Mitchell was signed early on and he had many other suitors, Blount had interest from Baltimore and New England, even Moats was connected with Cleveland. Obviously Heyward-Bey and McCain im sure didn’t receive many calls if ANY, but those are low risk /low money depth signings

  • Callentown

    I find it interesting that sites like PFF are used at times to make a point, by both writers and fans alike, but then those same people will refute the site, saying you can’t use stats to tell the whole story.

    In this case, they’re writing an article which is different.

    But, can we all agree as to whether PFF has legitimate information please?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Good stuff!

    I think they were reading the comment section here for their research.

    I think its been an excellent off season run almost perfectly and what is often criticized as reactionary is how a good team operates in a market where the player you want might prefer money to winning.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Like the story…LOVE the title! Hahaha

  • charles

    Top ten lists are created to sell ads. PFF is a guy’s version of Okrah Winfrey. Pure gossip. You can compare Russell Wilson to Ben in only one real way Super Bowl wins and losses. How do the Steelers rank in free agent coach additions? Very Good. Tomlin has just two more to go to finally get HIS staff.

  • Rupert

    Anyone paying attention to the Steelers offseason activity going back many years would know that this is NOT a typical offseason! This is the most aggressive (almost desperate) I’ve seen the front office since…well I don’t remember. We’ll always be in the hunt as long as we have Ben so we need to keep retooling and reshaping our team within the confines of the dreaded salary cap. Good article and PFF clearly isn’t paying close enough attention.

  • treeher

    Yes, I thought that article stunk.

  • treeher

    I recall that I was on the “no” side of resigning both last year and although Cotch had a fine season and Dwyer filled in well, they are both easily replaced and I think we did replace them in free agency.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Foote, Keisel were the other guys. As far as interest goes, there are a lot of people I would have interest in but do nothing about it for various reasons but both Blount and Moats were just hanging around IMO. If those teams had REAL interest in those guys they would not be Steelers today.

  • steeltown

    Ah yes Keisel and Foote, how did I forget those guys. I still think there’s a chance Keisel might be back

  • srdan

    hmm, I think what is often under-appreciated by the fans is how our front office tries to put the best team on the field every year by spending every penny of the salaray cap. Many teams don’t do that. They put a team out 20 mill under the salary cap, sell seats and hope for the best.

    Maybe what you call “aggressive or almost desperate” is a direct function of the additional salaray cap everyone was dealt. If we weren’t dealt that luxury, there would not have been the influx of talent this year. I think internal players would have had less of a chance to leave because of less money on the market.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The draft should tell us what Keisel’s status is. I like Tuitt a lot and hope the Steelers have the same opinion as I do.

  • steeltown

    I concur

  • Johnny Loose

    PFF can say what they want, the rest of the AFC North is feeling uneasy. I live in Ohio, and nobody (who knows football) is saying much about Pittsburgh or joking right now. And that’s always meant one thing..

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Matt,
    I have to respectfully disagree with you – we have a HUGE gaping hole in our secondary at CB……
    Otherwise, I have to tell you that on the plus side I strongly agree with your premise – I think I responded to the revelation that PFF had regarding the Stillers being ‘losers’ in FA via another website by saying something like ‘the Steelers are NEVER big players in FA’.
    Of course then we did what we did for better (Blount, Mitchell, to a lesser degree Moore) or worse (DHB, Brice whats-his-name, the PFF worst rated CB last year – what were we thinking, or were we thinking?)!!!!
    As my dear father used to say, NEVER say NEVER!!!!

  • Rupert

    Agreed on both accounts! We move the money around and are at or near the cap every season! KC and OK are magicians. We are pretty consistent in the product we put out.
    You can tell that by what KC was saying before the increase and what we did when the increase was announced that our strategies had changed significantly.