The percentage of high school athletes that go on to play professional football stands at less than one percent.
For those that failed to hit the lottery and step foot on a professional field to compete, a common substitute to live out said dream rests within the confinements of the EA Sports Madden NFL franchise.
Every year, millions of people purchase the annual video game that allows them to simulate NFL football right in the comfort of their own home. Think you’re good enough to take your team to the Super Bowl? Grab the sticks and prove it. Want to build the best team of all time? Turn that console on, champ.
On Monday, EA released their initial launch ratings for every player on all 32 teams. With over 1,600 players to grade on a scale of 1-100, there are bound to be players ranked too high/low. In some cases, the players themselves will chime in.
Keenan Allen says he isn't going to play Madden 20 after seeing his ratings 😂
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 15, 2019
With the Steelers possessing one of the largest fan bases in the league, there’s bound to be a plethora of Madden players that have long awaited the ratings of the black and gold. The full team ratings can be found here, but if you’re just searching for the meat and potatoes, look no further:
Overall Team Rating: 84
The Steelers overall rating of an 84 lands them as the 10th-best team in the game, and the highest out of the AFC North division (Browns were rated at 83, Ravens at 81 and Bengals at 80). The honor of being the highest rated team in the game belongs to state rival Philadelphia, with the Eagles grading out as a 89/100.
Highest Rated Player: David DeCastro, 93
The rating for All-Pro guard David DeCastro should come as no surprise, as DeCastro is ranked only behind Cowboys guard Zack Martin. However, Steelers fans may be surprised to learn that DeCastro was the only member of the club to belong in the 90+ overall category.
Following DeCastro, the next highest rankings are as followed: JuJu Smith-Schuster (88), Cameron Heyward (86), Alejandro Villanueva (86), Maurkice Pouncey (85), Ben Roethlisberger (85), Joe Haden (84), Ryan Shazier (84), James Conner (83), T.J. Watt (82).
Superstar X-Factors: Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster
In Madden 20, there are 50 players deemed “x-factors”, or players that can take over a game. With the absence of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the Steelers settle for two x-factors in Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster. Players with the x-factor nomination will be able to perform special abilities after achieving certain goals while playing.
In example, Smith-Schuster’s main ability is called “Double Me”, which increases a receiver’s success rate on aggressive catches in single coverage. JuJu will also possess abilities such as “Cross Specialist” that enhances route-running on crossing routes, and “Slot-O-Matic” which enhances cuts+catch probability while lined up in the slot.
Roethlisberger’s list of abilities extends far past Smith-Schuster’s:
- Pro Reads: First open receiver is highlighted when standing in the pocket.
- Anchored Extender: Almost guaranteed to break first sack attempt by blitzing defensive back.
- Lofting Deadeye: Near perfect accuracy on lob/touch passes.
- Last Ditch: Higher chance of completing a pass while being sacked.
- Sleight of Hand: Increased success rate when using pump fake on double-move routes vs. zone coverage.
- Homer: Can easily enter the zone when playing at home.
The Steelers were able to trade up into the top ten and select what many believe to be a potential franchise linebacker in Devin Bush. Though some will debate, Pittsburgh’s 2019 draft class initially graded out as one of the best drafts in recent memory. Here’s how the 2019 Steelers draft class graded out in Madden 20’s initial rankings:
- Devin Bush: 72
- Diontae Johnson: 69
- Benny Snell: 69
- Justin Layne: 69
- Sutton Smith: 66
- Isaiah Buggs: 63
- Zach Gentry: 63
- Ulysees Gilbert: 62
Rookies are typically graded low due to unknown performance abilities at the NFL level, yet some may argue Devin Bush deserves a bump in ratings. This can serve as another reminder that these ratings are not set in stone, as the Madden team updates ratings throughout the year.
There’s always a handful of players that some feel are overrated. Fans will point to tackle Alejandro Villanueva’s 86 overall rating, good enough for fourth-best on the roster, as the front-runner for most overrated on this year’s game. Considering his unpopularity in Pittsburgh, punter Jordan Berry’s 75 overall rating (Equal to Donte Moncrief) may be found to be overrated as well.
Not every player can/will have a high rating, and the Steelers roster bares no exceptions. Artie Burns now finds himself as a 71 overall rated player, while guys like Chris Boswell (69) and Bud Dupree (73) find themselves as readily replaceable on the virtual gridiron as they are in real life.
Even though Pittsburgh arrives to the beginning of the 2019 season as one of the best teams in Madden 20, the overall roster feels as though they are being somewhat underrated. Majority of the qualms come from Philip Rivers (94) being ranked as third best quarterback in the game, whereas Roethlisberger sits nearly ten points behind him despite throwing for over 5,000 yards last season. Steelers DB Joe Haden also held no reservations on his Madden rating:
Smh! Do they even watch tape!?!? No disrespect to my fellow CB’s but I know what I bring 2 the table. https://t.co/LCR67w9ulG
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 15, 2019
With the game launching in nearly two weeks, Steelers fans now know how their team stacks up against the rest of the league. Once football is actually played, the team over at EA Sports will have a better chance to judge players and adjust their ratings as needed. For now, however, let the debate rage on for how grossly underrated/overrated players on the game actually are.