PIT-WAS grades: Roethlisberger-Brown connection fuels Steelers win

Steelers offensive stars Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown put up big numbers in win over Redskins.

| 10 months ago
2016 fantasy football rankings

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PIT-WAS grades: Roethlisberger-Brown connection fuels Steelers win

Pittsburgh Steelers 38, Washington Redskins 16

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 38-16 win over the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback grade: Ben Roethlisberger, 82.0

Roethlisberger took full advantage of Washington’s insistence on keeping cornerback Bashaud Breeland at right cornerback — instead of moving big-money free-agent signing Josh Norman to shadow Pittsburgh star WR Antonio Brown — by repeatedly feeding Brown on the left side of the field. His passing numbers reflect this, as he completed eight of nine throws to the left of the numbers for 163 yards and two touchdowns, compared to just one of four for two yards on throws to the right.

Top offensive grades:

WR Antonio Brown, 89.9

RT Marcus Gilbert, 85.3

QB Ben Roethlisberger, 81.9

LG Ramon Foster, 79.4

RG David DeCastro, 79.2

PFF’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year has his way with Washington CB Bashaud Breeland

Once Pittsburgh figured out Brown could feast on his matchup against Breeland, the game was effectively over. Brown caught eight of 11 targets on the night, and seven of eight against Breeland. Roethisberger wasn’t completely on target at times, but he didn’t need to be with Brown catching nearly everything thrown his way. We didn’t see the Brown-Norman matchup we had been looking forward to (see the graphic below), as Brown was targeted just twice when Norman was covering him, with zero catches, but that worked out just fine for the Steelers.


While it wasn’t a great night in terms of pass-blocking for most of the offensive line, RT Marcus Gilbert, LG Ramon Foster and RG David DeCastro all were dominant on run blocks, especially on power and counter plays. The Washington linebackers could not get off the blocks of the Steelers offensive linemen, as they paved the way to a big night for running back DeAngelo Williams.

Top defensive grades:

ILB Ryan Shazier, 88.6

CB William Gay, 79.0

DE Cameron Heyward, 75.1

DE Stephon Tuitt, 73.7

OLB Arthur Moats, 73.5

Ryan Shazier grades out as Pittsburgh’s top defender versus both the run and pass

Shazier led the Steelers with eight overall tackles, with two of those being run stops. He was targeted four times in coverage, giving up two catches for 26 yards, but also had an interception and a pass breakup. Conversely, rookie safety Sean Davis had significant struggles, as he yielded catches on six of seven targets and missed four tackles.

Washington Redskins

Quarterback grade: Kirk Cousins, 44.3

Despite taking just one hit on the night, Cousins had a miserable night passing  His inability to work the ball downfield accurately led to short offensive drives for the Redskins, and left the defense on the field for far too long. Cousins completed just four of eight passes longer than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage for 80 yards and an interception — an unacceptable total against a very susceptible defensive secondary.


Top offensive grades:

LT Trent Williams, 84.2

WR DeSean Jackson, 81.9

RT Morgan Moses, 75.4

LG Brandon Scherff, 73.4

WR Pierre Garcon, 71.6

Offensive line grades well across the board

While the offensive line collectively gave up eight hurries, the only hit on Cousins was charged to backup RB Chris Thompson. Williams and C Kory Lichtensteiger had the highest run-blocking grades for Washington, but the duo also accounted for four of the seven penalties that stalled the offense throughout the night. While the team averaged eight yards per carry running off the gaps of Williams and Lichtensteiger, Washington only ran behind them for three carries.

Top defensive grades:

OLB Su’a Cravens, 83.4

ILB Will Compton, 82.6

CB Josh Norman, 81.1

DE Chris Baker, 80.9

ILB Mason Foster, 79.4

Rookie Cravens is one of the few bright spots on Washington defense

14 of Cravens’ 17 snaps were in coverage, where he acquitted himself well. He gave up three receptions on four targets, but only for a total of 12 yards. He also registered a hurry as a pass-rusher. Compton was seemingly involved on every run play, and although at times he struggled to get off of blocks, he still managed to rack up five stops and 13 total tackles.

Breeland’s day started off well, with an interception off a miscommunication between Roethlisberger and rookie WR Eli Rogers, but turned dreadful by halftime. Not only did Brown dismantle him in the passing game, but the normally productive run-stopper missed three tackles, two of them on run plays that turned into key conversions.

Game ball: Steelers WR Antonio Brown

Get access to grades for every player, complete with positional rankings, in our Player Grades tool.

| Analyst

Josh joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. During the season, his primary focus is college football (mainly the Big Ten). He is also heavily involved in PFF's NFL draft coverage. Prior to joining the team, he worked for six years with GM Jr. Scouting, an independent draft scouting service.

  • MikeC4

    Roethlisberger’s grade of 82. Is that a joke?

    PFF is deeply flawed. Sorry guys, but it is. How are Ben’s miscues not counted in his grade when they are for other QBs?

    Strip sack fumble recovered by the Steelers

    Off target pass to a rookie that resulted in a tipped interception. The same sort of miscommunication was recently skewered by your writers in the Dallas v NYG game when Eli Manning threw it to his rookie Shepard. Inconsistency here, guys.

    A ridiculous pass into traffic in the end zone where Ben threw it perfectly to the Redskins defender. It bounces off his chest and right into the arms of Roger Lewis.

    Low, off target throws all night. Except for the 4th and 1. That glosses over everything else? A bobbled snap that he picks up and literally throws blind down the sideline that is caught by the receiver. Lol.

    What exactly is PFF’s grading system? They have skewered other QBs and graded them down for precisely these reasons. Plays that turned out well, but only due to the bounce of the ball. Decision making is highlighted in QB ratings is it not? Or does this only apply to the QBs they have ranked highly. Antonio Brown catching off target balls all night.

    PFF. Subjective as ever we see.

    • Jay

      Bens interception was the result of the rookie turning with the wrong shoulder and overall leaning is route to close to the midfielde coverage. The tipped TD looked like a miscommunication as two steelers ran the same route. The interception Eli threw was when his man had zero space to make a play and manning still threw it. Ben also had some great throws on the night.

      • MikeC4

        Not buying that explanation. The Giants coaches and other receivers who played the game who are now analysts explained exactly what happened on that play. Had Shepard done what he was supposed to do, (interesting, not turning on the wrong shoulder), that pass is on the numbers and PFF likely never even notices it, let alone grade a QB down. Shepard himself came out and said that was 100% on him. PFF can’t know the assignments of every player for every playbook, but when the information is there, it is a bit irresponsible to not factor that info into their grades. Otherwise you have inconsistencies like these in their reports.

        It makes no sense and I see them do this all the time with other QBs but it’s glaring with Eli Manning.

        Ben also had some great throws on the night? So did Eli.

        • Jay

          On that interception there was never a moment where that play was even potentially open. He still threw it and it was still a terrible decision. He made a great throw to ODB down the sideline. Eben on some of the Giants good plays his throws were off. Like on his second touchdown. He had the entire back corner of the end zone open but because the throw was off the play was much more difficult for the receiver. And there were many plays like that throughout the game. The reason Manning is graded so low by PFF is because he usually leads the league in turnover worthy plays. He gives defenses usually about 20 + chances a season to make interceptions.

          • GreenBay100

            How does Eli Manning’s high int season in 2013 apply to Sunday’s game? He leads the league in turnover worthy plays? How is that quantified and designated? What exactly then was Roethlisberger’s throw into traffic that somehow ended up in a Steeler’s hands? Or his sack fumble from holding the ball too long? Was that all a good decision because it landed on a Steeler’s uniform? It’s exactly this kind of justification that confounds me about PFF and fans who blindly agree with their grades. Depends on the player in question, I imagine. Majority of fans were outraged when they once graded Aaron Rodgers in the red for a 5 TD outing. It was absurd.

            The throw to the rookie was not a bad decision. Eli often makes throws where the receiver is covered when he releases the ball. Just like Rodgers. Just like most QBs worth their salt do. Just like Ben did yesterday resulting in a tipped int. Yet he is not trashed for it because it simply didn’t LOOK as bad nor as baffling as Eli’s. Shepard does the right thing there, it’s ignored by everyone.

            My issue with PFF, and many fans agree, is how does their grading system for QBs not factor in player assignments when something goes wrong? Isn’t that the entire point of breaking down film? This isn’t baseball.

    • LostAlone

      82 is a good grade but not an amazing grade, and I think that’s fair for how Ben played.

      In simple terms, the more you do as a player the better you are going to get graded. It’s extremely hard to mark someone down so harshly for plays that do connect and that the ‘Skins seemed to have no ability to stop.

      Throws don’t have to be perfect to be good. You can’t knock a point off every time a QB isn’t throwing a perfect spiral. It’s not a ‘mistake’ when a throw is slightly off target but still very catchable and gives the defender little chance to prevent the play. And that’s what most of Ben’s throws looked like last night. Not perfect but they connected and were safe.

      In the end, how far down can you mark a guy who lead a 38 point offense with a 115 passer rating? Barring something absolutely absurd happening successful QBs in successful offenses are going to score well. Pick holes all you want, and I want to see Ben tighten up next week, but it was a solid performance.

      • GreenBay100

        Yes, it’s extremely hard to mark someone harshly for plays that do connect. Agree completely. Except that is precisely what PFF does. They also project outcomes of plays that never happened which is outrageous in my view. Agree also that throws don’t have to be perfect. Except that PFF down grades other QBs for off target throws sometimes calling it a bad decision.

    • GreenBay100

      Giants fans have been outraged by PFF writers and I gotta say, let’s just compare Eli Manning vs Dallas to Big Ben vs Wash.

      PFF graded Eli a baffling 46.5 for his outing. His stats for the game were 67.9 completion, 207 yards, 3Tds, Int, 110.3 rating.

      He was graded down specifically for an int that was a clear miscommunication with Sterling Shepard. And a phantom backwards pass that wasn’t a backwards pass btw. Giants would have won a challenge if they needed to challenge. So, basically, PFF graded him down for something that never happened.

      Now let’s look at Ben’s night. 73 comp, 300 yards, 3tds, Int, 112.4. Lol. Not much difference in the numbers and many more bad decisions and off target throws from Ben. Hmm.

      Ben was, I’m assuming, graded up for that Roger Lewis “TD”? Or, at least, unpenalized? His interception is clearly overlooked here whereas it wasn’t for Eli. Both were mistakes by the rookie receiver except Ben’s throw was way off target. Had Shepard done exactly as his coaches and Eli expected, that’s an on the numbers completion and at worst an incompletion.

      Ben holding onto the ball too long and getting strip sacked doesn’t count, why? Because it didn’t result in disaster? Yet they admonished Eli for his forward pass against Dallas that didn’t result in disaster and would have been overturned anyway opif the refs saw it like PFF did. Which they clearly didn’t.

      Not even a Giants fan, but I’ve noticed the clear bias towards Eli Manning, in particular. I think these writers do have favorites and skew the grades in favor of certain guys over others. They insist they don’t do this, but there is clear bias especially in how they rate the QBs.

      I’ve been following this because I don’t buy for a second that Ben is on Aaron Rodgers’, Tom Brady level of top QBs. And, frankly, Eli Manning is over scrutinized as a player, rated way too low while Big Ben is not scrutinized enough, rated way too high. It needs to be addressed because fans see a double standard for many of PFFs articles. Was simply using Eli and Ben as a recent example.

      • MikeC4

        I think Ben is actually a terrific player and if he can manage to stay healthy, he could reach their level of play at least in terms of stats. He has incredible weapons and maybe the best receiver in the league. BUT he makes tons of wtf plays, off targets throws, holds the ball way too long. These things should be addressed, especially if they are going to trash Eli Manning and others for the same stuff while putting Ben into that upper echelon of QB play.

    • sikologik

      And that’s just the critique of their grading of Roethlisberger. The critique of Kirk Cousins also makes no sense:

      “His inability to work the ball downfield accurately led to short offensive drives for the Redskins, and left the defense on the field for far too long. Cousins completed just four of eight passes longer than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage for 80 yards and an interception — an unacceptable total against a very susceptible defensive secondary.”

      By about 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the steelers were routinely dropping 8 into coverage specifically to prevent chunk gains. Yet Cousins still managed to find Pierre Garcon on one 20+/- yard pass and Desean Jackson on a deep ball that resulted in a PI. You can’t just blindly spray the ball down the field; you must take what the defense gives you. It wasn’t just the “defensive secondary” back there- it was everybody but the defensive tackle and both defensive ends playing pass defense. The first interception that he threw was a terrible decision on Cousins’s part. The second interception wasn’t an interception, and I was frankly surprised that the booth didn’t review it, since I thought all turnovers were reviewed in the booth.

      The Redskins routinely drove into Pitt territory only to have drives stalled. Cousins wasn’t the only reason for that: the run game was abandoned eventually, and not all that great to begin with, and players other than Cousins were getting tagged for holding and false starts. When the running back gets tagged for a false start, your team is clearly not ready to play a professional football game, but you can hardly pin that on the quarterback.

      Cousins could’ve had a much better game I’m sure, and he’d be the first to tell you that. But I don’t think there’s very much justification for the critique he gets from PFF.