JVM: Pittsburgh Steelers
In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Jahnke Value Model” number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2013. 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 2013
• 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)
Here are 2013′s most undervalued and overvalued Pittsburgh Steelers:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver
Consistently one of the NFL’s most underrated receivers, it’s no surprise to see him as the most undervalued Steeler. Landing third among all wideouts in missed tackles (16) and YAC (657), Brown is as dynamic as anyone after the catch. His +23.1 receiving grade it best of the bunch, and with just eight drops against 110 catches, it’s not hard to see why. Committing four penalties was a bit disappointing, but with nearly 1500 receiving yards and a $3.1 million cap hit, the good far outweighs the bad.
2013 Cap Hit: $3.1m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $8.6m
Value Differential: +$5.5m
2. William Gay, Cornerback
Grading in the green eight times compared with just one game in the red, Gay vastly outperformed the much higher paid corner found on the other end of the value spectrum. He surrendered less than 500 yards despite being targeted by opposing passers 89 times. Only once did a quarterback complete a ball over 30 yards on Gay (a 31 yarder in Week 16), which no doubt contributed to Gay allowing just one touchdown through the air all season. He might not be the best tackler around, but his 12 stops in run defense are second most among corners. He’s not the best by any means, but Gay easily exceeded expectations.
2013 Cap Hit: $1.2m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $6.1m
Value Differential: +$5.0m
3. Ramon Foster, Left Guard
Though he missed some time, Foster was otherwise the model of consistency at left guard. Rarely did he wow us, but he graded below 0.0 just twice, the lowest being a -0.9 in Week 10. He allowed more than two pressures in a game only once, and his +9.9 pass blocking grade was sixth best. His run blocking ability was simply average, but his excellent pass blocking combined with being flagged twice in 855 snaps lands Foster on the undervalued list with ease.
2013 Cap Hit: $1.4m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $4.3m
Value Differential: +$2.9m
4. Jason Worilds, OLB – Cap: $1.0m, JVM: $3.8m, Value Differential: +$2.8m
5. Jerricho Cotchery, WR– Cap: $1.5m, JVM: $4.3m, Value Differential: +$2.8m
6. Le’Veon Bell, HB – Cap: $750k, JVM: $3.1m, Value Differential: +$2.3m
7. Cortez Allen, CB – Cap: $660k, JVM: $2.3m, Value Differential: +$1.7m
8. David DeCastro, RG – Cap: $1.8m, JVM: $3.2m, Value Differential: +$1.4m
9. Jonahthan Dwyer, HB – Cap: $600k, JVM: $1.2m, Value Differential: +$600k
10. Cameron Heyward, DE – Cap: $1.8m, JVM: $2.3m, Value Differential: +$500k
1. Ike Taylor, Cornerback
Playing nearly 98% of the team’s defensive snaps, Taylor had every opportunity to avoid this list. The 33 year old corner had a rough year though, allowing six touchdowns through the air without picking off a single pass. Quarterbacks throwing his way combined for a 110.6 QB rating as Taylor gave up over 1,000 yards at nearly 15 yards per catch. Taylor is owed a base salary of $7 million next year which will likely force the Steeler to part ways with the 11 year lifetime Steeler.
2013 Cap Hit: $8.0m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $930k
Value Differential: -$7.0m
2. Heath Miller, Tight End
Out for the first two weeks of the season and limited in his Week 3 return, Miller still managed to suit up for over 900 of Pittsburgh’s snaps this year. As was the case in 2012, Miller struggled as a run blocker earning a -9.2 grade in that regard. It’s something a team can forget about if you’re an unstoppable receiving threat, but Miller’s 593 yards and lone Week 7 touchdown would indicate that isn’t the case. Similarly to Taylor, Miller has played his entire career is western Pennsylvania, but with a cap hit expected to increase by $3.0 million in 2014, Miller’s time with the team may also be at an end.
2013 Cap Hit: $6.5m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $830k
Value Differential: -$5.6m
3. Lamarr Woodley, Outside Linebacker*
One of the few on this list whose value resembled that of a solid starter, Woodley’s place on this list can’t be considered entirely his fault. Playing just 78 snaps from Week 10 on, Woodley missed five of the last seven games for the Steelers. His +10.8 grade is solid, but the six year, $61.5 million contract he signed prior to the 2011 season indicates the Steelers were looking for more than solid from the young pass rusher. While pass rushers are often hard to come by, his cap hit is expected to average more than $13 million over the next three years. Perhaps most concerning is that while Woodley graded over +30.0 in each of the two years preceding his extension- in the three years since, his total grade is a much diminished +23.6.
2013 Cap Hit: $9.2m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $3.8m
Value Differential: -$5.3m
4. Brett Keisel, DE* – Cap: $4.9m, JVM: $930k, Value Differential: -$4.0m
5. Lawrence Timmons, ILB* – Cap: $5.8m, JVM: $2.0m, Value Differential: $-3.9m
6. Ryan Clark, S – Cap: $4.8m, JVM: $1.5m, Value Differential: -$3.3m
7. Maurkice Pouncey, C* – Cap: $2.5m, JVM: $40k, Value Differential: -$2.5m
8. Ziggy Hood, DE – Cap: $3.0m, JVM: $700k, Value Differential: -$2.3m
9. Lary Foote, ILB* – Cap: $1.8m, JVM: $60k, Value Differential: -$1.8m
10. Isaac Redman, HB* – Cap: $1.3m, JVM: $230k, Value Differential: -$1.1m
Summary – Team Value Differential: -$16.2m
Popular opinion held that Pittsburgh’s defense was old and overpaid, and with seven of their ten most overpaid on the defensive side of the ball, this list does little to debunk that theory. Injuries certainly played their part, with three of those ten playing fewer than 60 snaps a piece. At any rate, it looks like a slew of cuts will take place in Pittsburgh in an effort to get under even the heightened cap. Many of their overpaid are well into their 30’s, so it’s likely the Steelers’ management will have to let some of them go if they want to improve in 2014.