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Top 5 PFF graded Detroit Lions on offense, defense vs. Steelers

A closer look at Saturday’s top performers.

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Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions didn’t have a great performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday, especially in the first half. However, there were a handful of players who managed to put out good individual performances in spite of a lackluster team performance. While we’ve highlighted some of those players via our standouts, stock report, rookie rundown, and positional grades, let’s take a closer look at the players who graded out well via PFF’s grading system.

Note: We’re only going to include grades that were made public by PFF. We do not own publishing rights to the grades that are behind their paywall.

Top 5 offensive players vs. Steelers

1. RB Craig Reynolds — 77.1
2. WR Quintez Cephus — 72.8
3. RB Dedrick Mills — 68.6
4. QB David Blough — 67.9
5. WR Tom Kennedy — 67.8

For the second straight week, Lions reserve running back Craig Reynolds was the highest graded player on the Lions offense. Last week, he earned a 90.7 against the Bills, and he proved that performance was no fluke by grading out very well against Pittsburgh. At this point, the Lions have to seriously consider keeping him on the team, especially as seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson continues to underwhelm. At the very least, Reynolds deserves a shot next week to get some playing time earlier in the game to prove he can do it against better competition.

Elsewhere, it was a solid but unspectacular day for David Blough, who led the Lions to touchdowns on all three of his drives. Quintez Cephus also made a positive impression despite playing just 21 snaps.

Other notes:

Penei Sewell struggled against the Steelers. He was the lowest-graded player on the Lions offense. Here’s what PFF had to say about his performance:

Penei Sewell looks uncomfortable at right tackle. His sets don’t have near the precision or confidence we saw from him on the left side back at Oregon in 2019.

The depth of his sets was an issue, as he would almost comfortably allow defenders to the quarterback’s dropspot. He ultimately allowed three pressures on only 13 pass-blocking snaps on first review of the game.

Top five defensive players vs. Steelers

1. CB A.J. Parker — 90.8
2. DT Levi Onwuzurike — 90.5
3. DT Miles Brown — 83.3
4. LB Robert McCray — 77.2
5. DT Kevin Strong — 75.2

A.J. Parker’s performance was impressive for a myriad of reasons. Considering he’s still fairly new to the nickelback position, nabbing a 90.8 grade would have been impressive enough. But he also did it with the first-team defense, meaning he was going up against several Steelers starters on Saturday. Additionally, he had more snaps than any Lions cornerback on Saturday, so his high performance was not the result of a low sample size. Parker has not only worked his way onto the roster bubble, but has now provided the impetus for a serious conversation about his potential to start in the slot—even as an undrafted rookie.

Speaking of rookies, Levi Onwuzurike did not disappoint in his NFL debut. Per PFF’s recap, Onwuzurike generated pressures on two of only 10 pass rushing snaps and added a run stop, as well.

Detroit continued to flex its defensive tackle depth as Kevin Strong had another impressive outing—he finished third on this list last week—and nose tackle Miles Brown made some noise as well. The Lions will have some tough cuts at this position ahead, and there’s a good chance someone who doesn’t make this team will find a contributing role elsewhere.

Other notes:

Despite being at least partially responsible for the deep shot to Diontae Johnson, cornerback Jeff Okudah earned a solid 72.0 PFF grade.

Even though he was making plays all over the place, rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes had just a 66.9 PFF grade, as he was heavily dinged for his run defense in this game. Still, Barnes got a shoutout in PFF’s game recap.

“Barnes, on the other hand, racked up four stops on only 25 snaps and flashed that edge-rushing pedigree with a sack,” PFF’s Michael Renner wrote.