Steelers Snubbed In Player Rankings

DK Pittsburgh Sports

By Jordan DeFigio, @fidgenewton


Individual player rankings are pointless.


I said it.

In the aftermath of two notable names from the Pittsburgh Steelers being left off of Pete Prisco’s  Top 100 list, I have a hunch you might agree with me.

Both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ben Roethlisberger found themselves excluded in favor of the likes of Lamar JacksonHarrison SmithDak Prescott, and more. And while most of those players are the top performers at their respective positions, can you actually compare a quarterback like Jackson to a quarterback like Roethlisberger and say that one is DEFINITIVELY BETTER than the other? Especially when one has two Super Bowl rings and the other has not even a playoff win?

But my point is not even to make a claim that Ben Roethlisberger is better than Lamar Jackson. I don’t think he is. But I also don’t think he’s a worse quarterback than Lamar Jackson.

Player rankings are pointless in my mind for this fact alone – it makes more sense to judge a player’s value based on what they mean to their team than it does to line them all up side-by-side and compare stats to rank them. Of course, stats have their place in the game and they matter. They are a tangible metric we can use to measure on-field production. And of course, there are players that are superstars and there are players who flop. But once the conversation crosses from comparing the superstars against the flops to comparing the superstars against one another, rankings mean nothing.

Take for example the classic debate of Troy Polamalu vs. Ed Reed. Both played in the league for 10 years, Polamalu playing from 2003-2014 and Reed playing from 2002-2013. Polamalu played strong safety, Reed played free safety. Both made huge splashes in the league. Both were leaders of their defenses and on their teams, and both had Hall of Fame worthy careers.

Polamalu played in 158 games over the course of his career, in which he recorded 672 total tackles (478 solo and 194 assists), 12 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries (2 touchdowns), and 32 interceptions (3 touchdowns). Reed played in 174 games, in which he recorded 558 total tackles (446 solo and 112 assists), 6 sacks, 1 safety, 11 forced fumbles (2 touchdowns), and a whopping 64 interceptions (7 touchdowns).

Amazing stats. Amazing players. Two of the best of all-time. And I don’t think the argument can be made that one is definitively better than the other, because they could not have been more different. Comparing the stats is a waste of time; just watch the tape of them and it becomes evident both Polamalu and Reed revolutionized the safety position in their own right. Reed was fantastic, but the way Polamalu could anticipate snaps and seemingly be in two places at once was something I have yet to see any other safety achieve. It is possible to let their greatness stand side-by-side and appreciate them both for what they did for the league.

But honestly, stats tend to mean less than a guy’s ability as a playmaker, someone who steps up in big moments to make things happen. Polamalu had that. Reed had that too. And while sometimes that translates into an interception or a forced fumble, other times that translates into making a clutch tackle or breaking up a 4th and long pass late in the game that could put the opposition in field goal range to win. Stats matter. I’d argue big plays matter more.

Chew on this, too; each player on each team has to fit the team’s style of play and fill a specific role, and those guys all work together to develop chemistry to feed off each other to win games together. Football is, after all, a team sport. A guy who might be written off as a dud on one team might excel tremendously on another (thinking of Ryan Tannehill). Hell, there have been plenty of instances where tremendous talents have struggled to cement themselves in history because of their inability just to be a good teammate and team player (Antonio Brown comes to mind, Pittsburgh’s Voldemort). And then there are the guys who COULD have been something, but are never recognized because they never make it off of a team that does nothing to help them out. Laugh all you want, but I believe Derek Carr would be a very dependable quarterback on a team that gave him more than half a second to throw the ball to receivers who could actually catch.

It’s frustrating when it feels like the national sports analysts only ever rip into the Steelers, looking down on them, giving them no credit. That’s our team. It’s the classic “only I can make fun of my sibling, not you” situation. Plenty of people in Pittsburgh were critical of the team’s lackluster 2019 season. And for good reason. But when everyone else starts picking on them for seemingly no reason (other than that they exist), it’s infuriating.

That’s why I say, pay them no mind. Seriously. Leaving Fitzpatrick and Roethlisberger off a top 100 players list means absolutely nothing, especially when we know what they bring to the table and what they mean to our team. Legendary players make names for themselves no matter what anyone else is saying.

But if you don’t want to listen to me, listen to JuJu Smith-Schuster instead;

“Just wait. Let our pads do the talking.”


What do you think about individual player rankings? Should we do away with them or keep them around? Share your thoughts below!


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