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.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20
While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.
Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.
Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start
To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.
He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.
The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.
“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”
Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.
Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.
“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”
All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.
His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.
Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.
Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.
“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”
If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/23/20
David DeCastro practices with the Steelers after missing the first two games of the season. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained to the media, including Mike Asti and Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, that he is evaluating DeCastro and he could start their week 3 game against Houston.
Joe Haden can also seen working on one-on-one coverage drills with the rest of the secondary.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers