Pro Football Focus Not Impressed With Steelers’ Depth

Earlier this offseason, way back in February, Pro Football Focus projected the starting lineups of each team based on their then-current roster, and the site actually came away with a fairly positive take on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2014 prospects.

There were a few changes from the lineup since then, of course. Notably, at that time Derek Moye was the third receiver, Brian Arnfelt was in the starting lineup (as was Shamarko Thomas), and Larry Foote was still on the roster.

Those positions were replaced by a “good starter” in Lance Moore, “average starters” in Cam Thomas and Mike Mitchell, and a rookie in Ryan Shazier. All around, of course, that would suggest an upgraded lineup.

But PFF got around to evaluating the entire roster recently, reflecting moves after free agency and the draft, and to be blunt, they more or less trashed the Steelers’ depth, which they ranked as the 27th-best in the league.

The only two players that the site views as capable of being even average starters behind the actual starters are linebacker Arthur Moats and safety Will Allen. Even Vince Williams, who started 11 games for the Steelers last season, is a player that they view as a below average starter.

Also deemed below average starters are reserve quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, tight ends Matt Spaeth and David Paulson, and tackle Mike Adams. Based on his 2013 season, it would be hard to argue with Adams, but at the same time, there’s plenty of room for optimism about his future.

Likewise, PFF viewed Spaeth as the best run-blocking tight end in the league in 2012, and he even made some surprising catches from time to time.

While he had some mixed success in Pittsburgh trying to step into the starting lineup for Heath Miller over the years, “below average” suggests an overreaction to an underwhelming 2013 badly marred by a significant foot injury that required surgery.

Last, but not least, are three “poor starters” among the Steelers’ reserves: tackle Guy Whimper, cornerback Brice McCain, and punter Adam Podlesh. I have discussed Podlesh’s situation previously. He has struggled with consistency since suffering a hip injury in 2012, but his punts rarely get returned, nor does he register many touchbacks.

As for McCain, he is a 5’9” slot corner, and that is his role. Whimper actually performed better than Adams at tackle last season. His work at guard could use improvement, but he only began to learn the position a year ago after joining the Steelers.

The rest of the roster is full of rookies and other unknowns.

From Antwon Blake to Justin Brown, from Sean Spence to Cody Wallace, it’s all one big mystery. In total, the Steelers have 17 players about which the site feels there’s “not enough information” on which to judge, including Markus Wheaton in the starting lineup. Add in the nine rookies, and that’s 26 of the 62 players included on the Steelers’ current roster that are just a big ball of curiosity.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • pittsburghjoe

    On the bright side of things…I love their RB situation with Bell, Blount and Archer as a change of pace. I guess it all hinges on the OLine coming together.

  • ApexSteel

    This isn’t a surprise, I said about a month ago that looking at the roster is an ugly experience. It’s full of ifs.

  • Lil Smitty

    Not surprising that we are ranked low, but 27th. We haven’t finished lower than .500 since 2005 – 2006(?). We must have the best coaching staff in the league.

  • Melly

    As Steeler fans, we are fully aware of who we have. I think we are all hopeful of this years rookie class, AND we all are rooting for Spence. We know that our OL has the potential to be pretty good…especially w/ Munch coaching! There are concerns w/ our DL, LBs, and CBs(both starters and depth). With Ben and AB, our WRs should produce close to last yrs WR numbers?! I’m excited to watch Wheaton, Bryant, Brown, and Moye battle it out this preseason!

  • Paddy

    If you stop looking at PFF you will live longer, they stink

  • DoctorNoah

    I have to agree with PFF. We lack depth at a number of positions. We’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past, however , by the performance of seemingly no-name, cast-off or poorly pedigreed backups, so I’m not particularly worried. Next man up!

  • walter mason

    Yes there are many ifs with rookies but the only position that really scares me is OLB. I trust Rothlesberger will not be injured.

  • Doug Sawyer

    what a stupid write up…I could easily name more than 15 teams with more BS depth than Pittsburgh

  • Stout

    If you look at the PFF evaluation, a lot of the players are rated low. Seems we get 27th for the “unknowns”.

  • Skinny Merlino

    Challenge accepted

  • Doug Sawyer

    Miami,Buffalo,Cleavland,NY Jets,San Diego,Tennessee,Houston,Oakland,Dallas,Redskins,Giants,Vikings
    Tampa Bay,Rams,Cards and Jags…I could even say the Green Bay and Carolina have highly diminished depth

  • Jesse Murray

    PFF is 6 British guys with zero football experience and they have access to the same game footage we all do. Their evaluations are to be taken with a huge grain of salt. They dont know what responsiblity a player had on specific plays, dont take into account weather, who a player faces (for example easier to cover Greg Little than Calvn Johnson yet two CBs covering both are graded using same standard). In 2010 PS had a historically good run defense despite two major injuries to key starters on dline (Smith & Kiesel).

    The run D was so good, teams frankly gave up running on PS. Yet Casey Hampton was graded as one of the worst NTs in the league. Hood one of the worst 3-4 DEs in the league. All 4 starting Lbers had superb grades. This tells me PFF has no idea how the PS scheme works. None. Hampton’s primary job was to occupy blockers so Lbers can make plays. If all 4 Lbers had pro bowl or borderline pro bowl seasons how is it possible Hampton sucked? Answer: it isnt. They graded him down because he didnt show a good pass rush or come off blocks to make tackles. Yeh because he was busy occupying blockers so Farrior, Timmons, Deebo and Woodley could make plays.

    PFF is a good source for PDs, snap counts, sacks, pressures and similiar fairly easy to track stats. Their evals are no better than any of us eyeballing a game.

  • Ike Evans

    sounds about right to me…except VW is at least average, and Mike Mitchell has the potential to be above average.

  • Jonas

    Rec that!

  • Johnny Loose

    Whatever, PFF can argue 27th best depth all they want. Until it actually translates on the field, I’m not worried about it. OLB and CB are the only positions that really concern me as far a depth behind starters. I suppose you could throw TE in there as well.

  • joed32

    Not impressed with PFF.

  • Josh Knepshield

    We were 8-8 in 2006, and 11-5 in 2005. Last time we were below .500 Was 2003 at 6-10.


    The Steelers depth is a bit lacking. In years past we’d draft guys and they would sit. Now we draft guys and fast track them to starting. OLB and CB are still concerns but it is what it is. Score more points.


    Mitchell and Shazier will help the secondary, having Troy back at safety full time and having a FS with range will be huge. The Steelers just need to worry about match ups. No more Willie Gay guarding Gronk…lol

    but yeah I agree that OLB is more of a concern.


    yeah it’s interesting people seem to think PFF is the foremost authority on the NFL. I say piss off to PFF ratings.

  • steelster

    I think the OLB position will make or break the 2014 season.

  • steelster

    yes, 2nd longest streak of winning seasons in the nfl. Which is amazing when you consider the turn over of the past few years.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    My feelings have been that our success has come from our depth. As injuries begin to hit teams you need quality back ups which the Steelers did quite well for years. It wasnt till a couple of years ago our depth began lacking and our performance followed. Depending on the last couple drafts we will see if our depth can back us up once again to greatness

  • Dewayne Braxton

    It won’t come together with Beachum and Gilbert starting. Both them have played long enough to prove they are not starters. Oh, let me add. They are not starters on a playoff team.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    When a team is projected to start questionable players like Beachum, Gilbert, Ike Taylor, McClendon, Vince Williams, Spence, or a rookie, and unknown players like Tuitt and Wheaton, THE DEPTH HAS TO SUCK! So why even argue?

  • Dewayne Braxton

    The starting tackles are not going to scare anybody. So do you suppose tackle depth isn’t an issue. Of course it is if the starters suck!