3 PFF stats to know for Steelers-Patriots AFC title game

Ready for Sunday's AFC title game? Jeff Dooley gives you the stats to know before the Steelers and Patriots square off.

| 4 months ago
(Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

3 PFF stats to know for Steelers-Patriots AFC title game

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ narrow win over the Chiefs, and the New England Patriots earning a victory Saturday night against the Texans, the AFC championship game matchup is set. Here are the three key PFF stats you need to know before the Steelers and Patriots take the field:

1. Tom Brady earned a 99.3 overall grade during the 2016 regular season—the highest mark every achieved by a quarterback in the PFF era (PFF grades date back to the 2006 season).

Colleague Steve Palazzolo covered this in far more depth last week, but the shortened version is that Brady was absolutely dominant this season, leading the league in basically every facet of play PFF tracks to evaluate quarterbacks. For as good as Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is, Brady played this season at a completely different level than any other NFL quarterback, giving the Patriots the clear edge at the position in this one. It’s worth noting, however, that Brady struggled more than usual in the win over the Texans, and last year’s AFC championship loss to Denver was his lowest-graded outing of the year.

2. Ben Roethlisberger was only under pressure on three of his 32 dropbacks in the win over the Chiefs.

That is a remarkable performance from the Steelers’ offensive line, which isn’t surprising, given that they allowed just 14 sacks in the regular season—the third-lowest total in the league. Pittsburgh also ranks fifth in run-blocking grades on the year, and recently came in at No. 3 in PFF’s offensive line rankings.

The Steelers’ ability to give Roethlisberger a clean pocket and create running lanes for Le’Veon Bell will be critical next Sunday. While the Patriots have fared well against the run, they rank just 24th in PFF’s pass-rushing grades, so there should be opportunities for the Steelers’ offensive line to have a major impact in this one.

3. Patriots cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan combined to allow just six catches for 27 total yards on 13 targets in the win over Houston.

On the season, both players rank among the top 12 cornerbacks in terms of overall grade, and are part of a coverage unit that is one of the best in the NFL.

Butler shadowed Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown in the teams’ ’Week 7 meeting, allowing a QB rating of just 37.7 on nine targets against Brown for five catches, 94 yards and an interception. That game took place with Landry Jones starting at QB for Pittsburgh in place of an injured Roethlisberger, so circumstances were different. How well the Patriots can shut down Brown and the other Steelers pass-catchers in coverage figures to go a long way toward determining the outcome.

| Editor-in-Chief

Jeff is the Editor-in-Chief of PFF, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post's NFL coverage. He previously worked as the editor for ESPN Insider's NFL, Fantasy, and College Football coverage.

  • AJ

    Brady plays poorly and still gets credit for having “won” another playoff game. What does it say about the quality of the team as a whole that he has that kind of game and they still win by that much?

    Any rational and sensible person can understand why team wins and losses are not a good way to evaluate QB play.

    • Matt

      It’s not about the quality of the team more like the quality of the opponent….

      • AJ

        Combination of the two. They also had a special teams touchdown in the game. #1 ranked scoring defense in the league, but that is due in large part to the easy schedule down the stretch. NE is still the most complete team in the NFL, definitely compared to the other remaining teams.

    • Kunechi

      He threw two touchdowns and 300 yards. He was a crucial component of the victory. It’s not 1 vs 11

      • AJ

        The first touchdown was a little dump off to Lewis who did most of the work. The yardage needs context. For example, some deep throws were excellent, but a good chunk of those came on plays where the pass is not well thrown but the defender misplays the ball, such as one of the deep throws to Hogan.

        The second touchdown was a great throw, as was that entire drive for the most part.

        Also fortunate to not have a 3rd INT because the DB dropped it. Play-for-play, it wasn’t a good game. A lot of negative plays not reflected in the stat sheet, such as taking a sack that put them out of field goal range. PFF seems to agree with me.

        “It’s not 1 vs 11″- you’re making my exact point. That’s why he (or any QB) can’t be credited for with a win or loss. You win and lose as a team. One day, the rest of the football world will come to their senses.

        • R.T. Flakfizer

          Not being objective, mate. He was “lucky” not to have three INTs? His first INT was not his fault as it went right off his receiver’s hands. Of course it’s a team game, but everyone in the business knows that not all members of that team are equal and there’s a reason why good to great QBs are the most coveted, most expensive players in the game.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I guess Vince Lombardi must not have been rational and sensible because he said “Winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing”. Historically many of the best passing performances came in losing efforts but I don’t know a single coach that wouldn’t rather have an ugly win.

  • hdogg48

    I like the young, hungry, fast, hard hitting defense of the Steelers.
    They seem to be improving every week.

    With Bell running and Gronk (our kryptonite) out
    I like our chances to finally break through this w/e in

    It will definitely be a close, hard fought tilt.

  • Cds214

    It ,will be a great div championship game
    Defense will win it, which ever team plays the best on defense will win. Both offenses can post 30.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Coming up with back to back dominate defensive efforts on the road is a very tough challenge in the playoffs. Bell is the key for the Steelers and if he gets over 20 carries they can make a game of it.