It is that time of year again. As training camp creeps up for the Steelers, the annual Madden video game series has begun to release its ratings for players. And, unsurprisingly, the early leaks have been pathetic. Unfortunately, that has become a common trend for this sad franchise.
Let me be clear up front: Madden ratings are very trivial. They won’t win you games, get you into the playoffs, or win you the Super Bowl. Your team could be the best-rated team in this game and you could easily turn around and be the worst team in the NFL. I get that a lot of people look past these ratings because of that.
My issue is that Madden charges players $70 annually to buy their new rendition of the game and they are easily one of the laziest developers. The same issues persist each year, and while the game is hyped as a new and amazing experience, it is the same crappy game with a new coat of paint.
That doesn’t stop everyone from buying the game though, and the franchise will rinse and repeat next season. While I have an inherent issue with that, my second issue surfaces with the game promising a realistic NFL experience. They already fail to do that with lackluster game options, but their rating system is just as maddening.
The Steelers have had a poor showing so far
The initial ratings have trickled out, and I wasn’t overly surprised early on. Minkah Fitzpatrick was the second-highest safety, which is at least realistic, and Cameron Heyward is a tad lower than I would agree with, but it is nothing egregious.
Then the edge rushers came out, and it was a complete sham of a list. T.J. Watt was listed as the fourth-best edge rusher in the game and was tied with the likes of Maxx Crosby and Von Miller. No disrespect to either of those players, but Watt is leaps and bounds better than either, and it isn’t close.
I get that Watt had a down season last year, but that was due to him missing most of the year with an injury. Madden claims to use a multitude of ratings stats to look past issues like that, but it doesn’t seem to be a consistent process. Aaron Donald also missed roughly the same amount of time and posted his worst season as a pro. He is rated as a 99 overall and one of the best overall players in the game.
To be clear, I am not opposed to this. Had Donald been healthy, he likely would have posted his usual dominant season and earned the rating he got. So why does Watt get dinged for the same issues? At the bare minimum, he could have received the same score as the year prior. Instead, he suddenly falls and is unfairly ranked.
Even Alex Highsmith feels slighted. While his initial rating is higher than a season before, he is also coming off a 14.5 sack season where he was sixth in the NFL in that stat. No, Highsmith shouldn’t be listed amongst the elite names of the edge-rushing world, but some of the names he is behind are ridiculous.
Josh Allen and Khalil Mack, both of whom had good seasons, are rated a few notches higher than Highsmith. He outperformed any season that Allen has ever put out, and the 14.5 sacks were just half a sack lower than Mack’s career high.
Even more maddening is Chase Young and Randy Gregory both coming in with a higher score. Neither were dynamic last year, and Young failed to put up a single sack. Yes, both had some injury issues, but Watt was dinged for those, so why weren’t they?
This won’t be my last issue either. I’m convinced the development team copies over non-notable players with the exact same attributes as the season before. Core depth players on the team will be ranked well below their worth.
Last season at this time, Zach Gentry had a worse rating than Jace Sternberger. While Gentry isn’t some sort of an elite player, he has become a fine-depth tight end. Meanwhile, Sternberger is currently out of the NFL, playing football last season in the USFL. You can’t tell me that had someone actually been assessing these players and ratings that Sternberger would have been the higher-rated name.
Again, video game ratings aren’t a huge deal, but for a game that promises an authentic experience and charges you a lot for it every year, this game is pathetic. The ratings are inconsistent and lazy while the actual improvements each year at minimal. The Steelers roster is a perfect case for this, as ratings are once again frustrating to see.