Bears PFF grades: Best and worst performers in Week 9 loss vs. Steelers

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The Chicago Bears lost their fourth straight game with a 29-27 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Justin Fields took a monumental step forward in his development and the officiating crew is coming under fire for a brutal outing.

Pro Football Focus handed out player grades for those who took a snap in the Bears’ win, and we broke them down by offense and defense, analyzing the three highest- and lowest-graded players on each side.

There were a few surprises in terms of the highest- and lowest-graded players, both on offense and defense.

Top 3 offense

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

  • TE Cole Kmet – 90.7

  • QB Justin Fields – 90.5

  • WR Jakeem Grant – 90.1

Fields had his breakout game in front of the entire NFL world on Monday night, where he showed that he’s going to be a truly special talent in the league. On the road in a rowdy Heinz Field trailing in prime time, Fields marched his team right down the field, where he made some really clutch throws, to give the Bears a 27-26 lead in the final two minutes. The moment wasn’t too big for Fields, and he took a massive step forward in his development, and he’s PFF’s highest-graded quarterback in Week 9.

After a slow start, Kmet is starting to find a role in the passing offense, where he’s quickly become one of Fields’ favorite targets. Kmet had a career day, leading the Bears with six receptions for 87 yards on eight targets. Look for Kmet to continue to be more involved on offense. Meanwhile, while Jakeem Grant made a brutal special teams blunder fumbling a kickoff, he was one of the highest-graded offensive players.

Bottom 3 offense

AP Photo/Matt Durisko

  • TE Jesse James – 45.3

  • WR Damiere Byrd – 52.4

  • RT Larry Borom – 56.6

One week after being among the highest-graded players, James slipped to the bottom as other tight ends stepped up. James graded well in pass blocking, but he was marked down for his performance in the passing game and run blocking. James wasn’t targeted once in the passing game after a touchdown last week. Elsewhere, Byrd remains invisible on offense as the No. 4 receiver, where he struggled in the passing game and run blocking. He wasn’t targeted once.

Despite Borom being among the bottom-graded offensive players, make no mistake about it — Borom had a solid game against one of the NFL’s best edge rushers in T.J. Watt. Borom made his second NFL start in a tough road environment on prime time, and he showed that he could very well be the future at right tackle.

Top 3 defense

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

With Alec Ogletree sidelined with an ankle injury, Trevathan took a bulk of starter reps opposite Roquan Smith. Trevathan, who had seven tackles, was the Bears’ highest-graded defender. He received high marks in run defense and, surprisingly, coverage. He struggled with tackling, which has been a theme with this defense, but he and Smith came away with a key third-and-1 stop.

Shelley has been quietly having a solid couple of weeks, which continued Monday night against the Steelers. Shelley had a 85.2 coverage grade, although he did struggle against the run and pass rush. Shelley allowed 27 yards on five catches and had a nice pass breakup. Gipson also had a solid gamer for Chicago’s secondary, where he was impressive tackling and coverage. Gipson had a nice stop on third down that helped get the Steelers off the field.

Bottom 3 defense

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

  • LB Christian Jones – 30.1

  • DT Khyiris Tonga – 37.4

  • DT Angelo Blackson – 40.5

With Ogletree sidelined, it was Trevathan and Jones splitting reps opposite Smith. While Trevathan was the highest-graded player, Jones was the lowest-graded player. While Jones was solid in tackling, he received some poor marks in coverage (38.2) and against the run (46.9).

The Bears also had two reserves from the defensive line among the lowest graded defenders in Tonga and Blackson. Tonga received a brutal 22.7 tackling grade and also struggled against the run and in pass rush situations. Blackson, meanwhile, wasn’t too bad in the tackling department, although he could’ve been better when defending the run or getting after the quarterback. Tonga finished with 1 tackle while Blackson had 2 tackles.

Other notables

AP Photo/Fred Vuich

  • WR Allen Robinson – 80.9

  • TE Jimmy Graham – 76.7

  • CB Kindle Vildor – 61.5

  • OLB Robert Quinn – 55.1

Robinson made his grand return to the NFL on Monday night, where he had his best game of the season. Robinson hauled in four catches on six targets for 68 yards, including a clutch catch as Fields drove Chicago down the field to take the lead in the final minutes. Graham matched his total output for the previous eight weeks with one catch for 28 yards, despite failing to haul in a touchdown and having a touchdown called back on a questionable penalty.

No matter how you frame it, Vildor had a brutal game. Whether it was committing a pass interference call or getting beat or failing to haul in an interception, it wasn’t a good game for the second-year pro. Meanwhile, Quinn couldn’t overcome the loss of Khalil Mack, who missed his second game as he nurses a foot injury. Quinn did have one sack on Roethlisberger — and he now leads the Bears with 6.5 sacks — but it wasn’t enough to prevent some big throws by Roethlisberger.

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