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Browns vs. Steelers wild card matchup: How their grades compare this season

 Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

CLEVELAND, Ohio – If you let Pro Football Focus grading be your guide, Sunday’s wild card game between the Browns and Steelers is a matchup of the fourth-ranked Browns offense and the second-ranked Steelers defense.

Or, to look at it another way, it’s the 18th-ranked Browns defense against the 29th-ranked Steelers offense.

To provide a picture of how the two teams match up, here is a position-by-position look at how PFF analysts graded Browns and Steelers players this season.

(About PFF grades: PFF grades on a scale of 0-100, with higher grades indicating better play. PFF has explained its grades this way: 100-90 elite; 89-85 Pro Bowler; 84-70 starter; 69-60 backup; 59-0 replaceable.)

A few notes to remember as you go through this: 1. Rankings among position group in parentheses; 2. Grades are for total offense or defense unless noted; 3. Players listed are considered available as of Friday afternoon.


Baker Mayfield: 81.6 passing (14th)

Notable: Mayfield had a 57.7 passer grade, an adjusted completion percentage of 70.7 (two drops, two throwaways) and was sacked eight times in two games vs. the Steelers this season.

Ben Roethlisberger: 69.0 passing (25th).

Notable: Roethlisberger had a passing grade of 76.0 in Week 6, his only game against the Browns this season. His adjusted completion percentage was 76.2, and he was under pressure on only four dropbacks.


Nick Chubb: 87.2 (fourth).

Kareem Hunt: 75.0 (25th).

Notable: Chubb (34) and Hunt (29) are fourth and ninth, respectively, in runs of more than 10 yards this season. Chubb averages a league-best 4.06 yards after contact and is third in avoided tackles (56) despite playing only 12 games. Hunt is 13th in avoided tackles (35).

James Conner: 68.0 (46th).

Benny Snell Jr.: 56.1 (65th).

Notable: Conner and Snell have combined for 27 runs of more than 10 yards. Conner averages 4.3 yards per carry, and Snell 3.3. The Steelers are ranked 31st in run grade (66.0).


Jarvis Landry: 84.1 (16th).

Rashard Higgins: 77.4 (32nd).

Donovan Peoples-Jones: 71.8 (63rd).

Notable: Landry is 17th in yards per route run (2.11), which basically takes production (yards) and divides it by opportunity (routes run). Higgins is 23rd (2.04) in YPRR and 13th in yards per reception (16.2). Peoples-Jones’ YPRR is 2.34, but with only 20 targets, he doesn’t qualify for overall rankings.

Chase Claypool: 75.6 (39th).

Diontae Johnson: 69.4 (67th).

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 68.2 (72nd).

James Washington: 60.9 (98th).

Notable: Johnson’s 14 drops lead the league. Claypool has the best YPRR among the Steelers receivers (2.00, 25th), followed by Johnson 1.76, 45th). Claypool is ranked third in targets over 20 yards this season (31).


Jedrick Wills Jr, LT.: 78.5 pass blocking, 51.1 run blocking.

Michael Dunn, LG: (no pass-blocking snaps), 52.9 run.

JC Tretter, C: 84.3 pass, 71.6 run.

Wyatt Teller, RG: 64.7 pass, 93.6 run.

Jack Conklin, RT: 82.5 pass, 78.7 run.

Notable: The Browns are ranked first in pass blocking (86.4) and run blocking (81.4). Offensive linemen have accounted for 14 of the team’s 22 sacks allowed. Teller led NFL offensive linemen in overall grade (92.9) and run-blocking grade. Dunn played one offensive snap this season.

Alejandro Villanueva, LT: 77.1 pass, 60.9 run.

Kevin Dotson, LG: 87.2 pass, 55.1 run.

Maurkice Pouncey, C: 64.8 pass, 55.4 run.

David DeCastro, RG: 79.5 pass, 50.0 run.

Chukwuma Okorafor, RT: 63.2 pass, 49.0 run.

Notable: The Steelers are ranked fifth in pass blocking (73.9) and 31st in run blocking (50.3). Villanueva’s 43 pressures allowed is fifth-most among tackles. Dotson has started four games and played the majority of snaps in one other. The Steelers, as a team, have given up a league-low 13 sacks on Roethlisberger.


Myles Garrett, Edge: 89.5 (9th)

Sheldon Richardson, DT: 71.1 (65th)

Larry Ogunjobi, DT: 53.0 (not in top 200).

Adrian Clayborn, Edge: 59.8 (166th).

Notable: Garrett is eighth in pass rush (90.0) and 17th in quarterback pressures (56). Garrett also has the top run defense grade among Browns linemen (73.8). Richardson is next at 67.8.

T.J. Watt, Edge: 91.6 (fourth).

Cameron Heyward, DT: 89.1 (12th).

Tyson Alualu, NT: 89.6 (ninth).

Stephon Tuitt, DT: 75.7 (50th).

Alex Highsmith, Edge: 72.0 (74th).

Notable: Watt is ranked fourth in run defense (90.1) and fifth in pass rush (90.4). His 73 pressures are third. Tuitt (71) and Heyward (62) are also in the top 10 in pressures.


Malcolm Smith: 70.8 (12th).

Sione Takitaki: 70.5 (13th).

B.J. Goodson: 65.4 (25th).

Jacob Phillips: 45.3 (not enough snaps for ranking).

Mack Wilson: 36.2 (94th).

Notable: Smith, who has yet to be cleared from the resere/COVID-19 list, is ranked seventh in coverage among linebackers (79.0). Goodson is second in tackling (86.0) and Takitaki is second in run defense (86.3).

Avery Williamson: 51.7 (64th).

Vince Williams: 50.6 (50.6).

Notable: Williamson is seventh in run defense (78.0) and ninth in tackling (80.4). Williams is fifth in pass rush (82.2). Watt and Highsmith are technically linebackers in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense, but both serve as edge rushers. They’ve combined for only 88 coverage snaps.


Terrance Mitchell, CB: 67.4 (74th).

Kevin Johnson CB: 50.6 (194th).

M.J. Stewart, CB: 41.6 (not in top 200).

Karl Joseph, SS: 53.3 (178th)

Andrew Sendejo, FS: 42.9 (not in top 200).

Notable: Mitchell has the 18th most targets (84) and is tied for eighth with 11 pass breakups. Joseph’s seven TDs in coverage is tied for second most. Denzel Ward, who is 34th in coverage (74.6), could potentially be cleared from the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Browns are ranked 20th in coverage grade (56.4).

Steven Nelson, CB: 67.1 (77th).

Cameron Sutton, CB: 68.6 (61st).

Mike Hilton, CB: 68.0 (65th).

Terrell Edmunds, SS: 70.9 (48th).

Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS: 79.5 (15th).

Notable: Fitzpatrick is 12th in coverage grade (80.1), with four interceptions and seven pass breakups. The Steelers are ranked third in coverage grade (82.1).


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