I believe that to properly analyze the 2017 IDPs you need to have an idea of how they’ll ALL perform so you can benchmark and compare them effectively. So I built a model using past performance, efficiency, scheme information and coaching tendencies to predict what will happen in 2017. I’ve applied that to my best estimates for how teams will use players this year which gives a projection and ranking for all IDPs. You can read more about what I did and how here.
Remember in the playoffs last year everyone was going crazy about the Steelers? For some reason people thought they had an elite offense (they finished tenth in points for) as well as defense (tenth in points against). I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. They have some really good players and given they include a running back and a wide receiver as well as a very famous quarterback, people assume it’s a really good team. I don’t think it is at all.
Having said that, the worst Steelers teams tend to be okay anyway just because of the stability and therefore commitment to finding players who actually fit into the way they play. I think they’ll be a decent team this year if not one challenging for the title. Obviously that’s no onion hanger!
Artie Burns, CB
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Going into his second year, Artie is up at #7 in my rankings. He was extremely up and down from what I saw last year as he came to terms with a difference in usage but I like him a lot now. The Steelers ask their backers and corners to do a lot in space and I think he’ll rack up tackles.
Key stats: 820 snaps, 55 solo tackles, 12 assists, one sack, ten passes defended, two interceptions.
Cameron Heyward, DE
The Steelers starting ends are both so underrated. 5 tech isn’t a glamour position or one that puts up video game numbers, but I think Heyward in particular is good enough to start on your team anyway. He is my #18 end in 2017 on the back of a very respectable tackle total. This is higher than I’d expect any of the ends in Washington or Baltimore to manage and a good reminder that not all 3-4 schemes are the same. Each coach has his own tendencies which are reflected in statistical output.
Key stats: 857 snaps, 34 solo tackles, 17 assists, six sacks, four passes defended.
Ryan Shazier, LB
Firstly – have you even seen Shazier and Xerxes (the invading emperor from the movie 300) in the same place at the same time? I haven’t. Uncannily similar looking men.
On to football; I know everyone’s problem here is going to be “Shazier can’t stay healthy” and it is a fair comment. This one could backfire. But when he’s available, the mesh between his speed and the heavy zone responsibilities is so good he can’t help but be effective. I’m fine holding Shazier through any injuries because when he does play he’s effective enough to help win weeks. He’s my #23 rated linebacker this year, although that could easily be top ten or out of the top 36 depending on availability.
Key stats: 1,016 snaps, 71 solo tackles, 36 assists, four sacks, five passes defended, two interceptions.
Vince Williams, LB
It feels a bit weird having Vince as a solid starter. I’m painfully aware of the fact he didn’t do much last year and the Steelers gave him zero playing time when Lawrence Timmons was healthy last year, even though they must have known they’d be letting him go. If the difference between them was so wide last year why should we think it’s narrowed?
The reason I do have him this high is because someone has to take those snaps. And who else is it going to be? TJ Watt isn’t playing inside. LJ Fort? Tyler Matakevich? Vince looks like he has the job. Assuming he does start (and it’s worth watching carefully in training camp and pre-season) I expect him to finish at #32 in 2017. That would make him a starter in most decent IDP leagues but not a star.
Key stats: 797 snaps, 61 solo tackles, 33 assists, four sacks, four passes defended, one interception.
Sean Davis, S
Davis has been a lot of people’s darling after he sewed up the starting strong safety spot as a rookie. As above though, not all strong safeties are equal. Davis is very much not the in-the-box banger type we really like from safeties. I like him to make enough plays to finish up at #21 but I don’t think he’ll be troubling the top options at the position in terms of tackle counts.
Key stats: 893 snaps, 58 solo tackles, 24 assists, two sacks, five passes defended, one interception.
Javon Hargrave, DT
Hargrave showed well as a rookie but it’s a fairly limited role in terms of statistical production. He’s simply tied up too much with double teams and gap control to put up many numbers. Even as the starter he’s way down at #67 in tackle rankings for me.
Key stats: 365 snaps, 15 solo tackles, nine assists, one sack.
Stephon Tuitt, DE
I like Tuitt more as a player than I can give him credit for here. He’s my #48 end for 2017, although with a higher snap count (which is entirely possible) he could out-produce this ranking considerably.
Key stats: 577 snaps, 23 solo tackles, nine assists, three sacks, three passes defended, one interception.
William Gay, CB
I really like Gay. He never gets anything like the publicity that most top corners do, but he’s certainly a very good starter. Unfortunately in IDP that means he’s generally not as useful, so for me he’s way down at the #49 corner.
Key stats: 649 snaps, 41 solo tackles, nine assists, 12 passes defended, two interceptions.
Mitchell is a 30-year-old free safety. He tends to stay on the field all the time, but aside from that there isn’t much to get excited about. I have him at #42 and you can do better unless you’re in a league with 16+ teams or 60+ rosters.
Key stats: 956 snaps, 52 solo tackles, 22 assists, eight passes defended, two interceptions.
This preview reads very much like what we expect of the Steelers (or at least used to before they morphed into an all-action spread team) – solid all round, effective but not spectacular. The real problem is that they sorely lack a top pass rusher. If TJ Watt can turn into a Justin Houston or Von Miller type then this whole until will be transformed. That’s true for most teams, but given how often the Steelers draft pass rushers early it’s especially frustrating.
Those are my predictions as of right now. Obviously things will change as we get a better idea of who will play and how going towards the season. If you disagree with any assertions here feel free to leave a comment or contact me on Twitter (@TomDegenerate) and I’ll be happy to discuss.
Thanks for reading.