In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Performance Based Value” number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2012. You can read about the work we’ve done to create it here, but in short:
• It’s solely about what a player did on the field in 2012
• Players are grouped by positions so their play essentially earns them a portion of the positional salary pool
• It’s all about cap hits (these values are approximate)
It’s time for a look at the most undervalued and overvalued Pittsburgh Steelers from 2012.
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Lawrence Timmons, Linebacker
A big year from Timmons, who would finish fifth overall in our inside linebacker rankings. That’s a little way off his best year, back in 2010, but still plenty impressive. What really stood out about the year the Steeler had was how well he played in every phase of the game, proving himself an every-down linebacker who Pittsburgh needed on the field. Well worth what he’s paid.
2012 Cap Hit: $4m
2012 Performance Based Value: $9.5m
Value Differential: +$5.5m
2. Cortez Allen, Cornerback
The 2011 fourth-round pick was on the field for 60 snaps as a rookie, but with players moving on he was granted the nickel back role in 2012. How did he respond? With a fantastic year, earning a +8.9 for his work in coverage (the 17th-highest grade of all cornerbacks). That’s what happens when you allow only 10 yards per reception, 1.32 Yards per Cover Snap and one touchdown, while picking off two balls and deflecting nine more. Fine year.
2012 Cap Hit: $570k
2012 Performance Based Value: $4.9m
Value Differential: +$4.3m
3. Keenan Lewis, Cornerback
It was a breakout year for Lewis who took his chance to start with both hands and looks likely to turn that into a big contract this offseason. It wasn’t without it’s rocky moments, but he showed a real play-making ability with his 16 pass deflections.
2012 Cap Hit: $1.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $4.6m
Value Differential: +$3.3m
4. Isaac Redman, RB – Cap: $550k, PBV: $2.6m, Value Differential: +$2m
5. Ben Roethlisberger, QB – Cap: $8.9m, PBV: $10.8m, Value Differential: +$1.9m
6. Ryan Clark, S – Cap: $4.3m, PBV: $6m, Value Differential: +$1.8m
7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR – Cap: $750k, PBV: $2.1m, Value Differential: +$1.4m
8. Ramon Foster, OG – Cap: $1.3m, PBV: $2.5m, Value Differential: +$1.3m
9. Cameron Heyward, DE – Cap: $1.5m, PBV: $2.8m, Value Differential: +$1.2m
10. Steve McLendon, NT – Cap: $550k, PBV: $1.8m, Value Differential: +$1.2m
1. Troy Polamalu*, Safety
When he was on the field Polamalu still looked like the player we’ve come to expect. It was just that injury ensured we was on the field in only seven games and for 402 snaps. That was good for the 13th-highest grade of all safeties and an indication of what the Steelers were missing as he battled injuries.
2012 Cap Hit: $9.1m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.4m
Value Differential: -$6.7m
2. Casey Hampton, Nose Tackle
There was a time when Hampton was as valuable to the Steelers as anyone. A two-gapping nose tackle, the opposition A-gaps were his property for many a year. Only time has taken it’s toll and the NFL has changed so that what he does just isn’t as valuable any more. Hampton played in every game but was on the field for only 49.6% of the Steelers snaps, with 46.5% of those snaps coming on passing downs (where Hampton and his three quarterback disruptions aren’t much good).
2012 Cap Hit: $5m
2012 Performance Based Value: $925k
Value Differential: -$4m
3. James Harrison, Linebacker
Missing the first three games of the season didn’t help, but it was the dropoff in play from Harrison that meant he was never going to justify the money that came to him. Was this the result of playing hurt, or just Father Time catching up? His usual excellent self against the run, the regression in play from Harrison was noticeable rushing the passer where he would pick up only 28 quarterback disruptions from 294 pass rushes. That gave him only the 19th-best Pass Rushing Productivity score of 32 measured 3-4 outside linebackers.
2012 Cap Hit: $9m
2012 Performance Based Value: $5m
Value Differential: -$4m
4. Brett Keisel, DE – Cap: $5m, PBV: $1.5m, Value Differential: -$3.6m
5. Rashard Mendenhall, RB – Cap: $3.4m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$2.7m
6. Larry Foote, LB – Cap: $3.6m, PBV: $1.2m, Value Differential: -$2.4m
7. Max Starks, OT – Cap: $2.5m, PBV: $825k, Value Differential: -$1.7m
8. Mike Wallace, WR – Cap: $2.7m, PBV: $1m, Value Differential: -$-1.7m
9. David DeCastro, OG – Cap: $1.4m, PBV: $390k, Value Differential: -$1m
10. Lamarr Woodley, LB – Cap: $5m, PBV: $4m, Value Differential: -$900k
Summary – Team Value Differential: -$2.3m
The problem for Pittsburgh is clear. They’ve invested a lot of money on players who are at an age where getting 16-game seasons out of them is becoming increasingly rare, while for some their performance is regressing at a speedy rate. There’s something to be said for having an experienced roster, but you can’t effectively replace aging talent you have a problem. Overall, 36 of the roster earned positive differentials and 28 negative.
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