Steelers Stock Report: Whose stock is rising after beating the Packers
The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium by a final score of 23-19. The manner in which the Steelers were victorious was enough to give us all a severe case of deja vu.
It was a rinse and repeat performance from the second half of last season. The Steelers finding offensive success running the football behind a steadily improving offensive line, and an ultra conservative passing attack designed specifically to protect and possess the football. Plus, an opportunistic defense who have shown a knack for making big plays on money downs. In the end, the Steelers have emerged victorious far more often than not, and we the faithful get to experience the full emotional gamut each contest, whether we like it or not.
Steelers Stock Trending Up: Jaylen Warren
Where would the Steelers offense be without Jaylen Warren? I shudder to think. Warren is a breath of fresh air for the Steelers offensive attack. The wind beneath their wings if you will. The player I affectionately refer to as Mighty Mouse has went from undrafted afterthought to arguably the most efficiently effective member of the Steelers offense. His intensity and determination is unmatched. Warren produced his first career 100 yard game running the football on Sunday, and he earned every inch. Well deserved.
Steelers Stock Trending Up: Offensive line
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Najee Harris also enjoyed an outstanding performance running the football against the Packers. A big part of their consistent success in recent weeks has been the steady improvement of the Steelers offensive line. Broderick Jones has been the primary reason for the aforementioned improvement. Jones has brought youthful enthusiasm and excitement to an experienced unit. Along with his elite level power and athleticism.
The Steelers have really stumbled onto something with Jones and James Daniels on the right side, and they have enjoyed sustained success running the ball to their side. However, the left side of Isaac Seumalo and Dan Moore Jr are starting to find their groove as well. The Steelers had numerous successful runs to the left side against the Packers also. The Steelers offensive line is starting to generate push in the running game, and better control the line of scrimmage. Hopefully pass protection improvement is next on the agenda.
Steelers Stock Trending Up: Keeanu Benton
This may be the ultimate compliment for any defensive lineman, and it’s my first observation every time I watch Keeanu Benton: Benton displays violent tendencies on the football field. The affable young man seems like a teddy bear off the field, but a ravenous grizzly between the white lines. Like a grizzly, Benton mauls opponents who have the misfortune of standing in his way. Benton possesses active and violent hands, which he utilizes often to toss blockers out of his way. He then relies on his exceptional natural athleticism to maneuver through the congestion and chaos left at his feet. Honestly, Benton is a collection of unteachable intangibles wrapped up in one blossoming prospect. Once again I proclaim Benton is destined to be the Steelers next great defensive lineman.
Steelers Stock Trending Down: Good health
Both starting inside linebackers suffering season ending injuries, in back to back weeks. After the NFL trade deadline. I believe that definitely qualifies as a stock trending in the wrong direction. Honestly, I am extremely disappointed at the moment. I have been ecstatic over the performance of Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander this season. The Steelers had finally found two inside linebackers worthy and capable of carrying on the standard of the position. Now they are both lost for the season.
The Steelers still have Elandon Roberts and Mark Robinson, but at this point of their careers they are basically the same player. Both are Buck linebacker types, who are much better against the run than in coverage. Robinson is the perfect understudy for Roberts, but not so much as a tag team partner, where they share the same strengths and weaknesses. The Steelers are going to need plenty of good fortune at the position, to avoid another scenario where the Steelers find ways to win “in spite of” instead of “because of” the inside linebacker position.
Steelers Stock Trending Down: Personnel usage
This issue has been a reoccurring problem during Mike Tomlin’s tenure. Right up there with his challenge flag decisions. The Steelers oftentimes struggle to get their young talent much needed reps, under optimal conditions. True experience only occurs between the lines. This season has been more of the same. Talented early round selections Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr, and Keeanu Benton have finally received starting spots, but only after proving to be substantially more qualified for the positions than their predecessors.
Then you have the Steelers tendency to slow play the available talents on their depth charts. Talented depth pieces that should have been utilized as part of a rotation much sooner this season. Before a sudden rash of serious injuries dictates their usage in less than ideal circumstances. Guys like Mark Robinson and Elijah Riley immediately come to mind. Robinson should have been receiving a handful of snaps each game as a part of the rotation. Robinson would have been gaining valuable experience as a Buck linebacker, and learning valuable insights from the experienced communication skills of Holcomb and Alexander. Instead, he has been thrown headfirst into the fray, out of necessity. It’s sink or swim time for Robinson, but it didn’t have to be. It could of, and should of, been handled much differently.
That brings us to the Steelers decision to make Darius Rush inactive against the Packers. Basically, the Steelers decided that Rush was too inexperienced and unfamiliar with their sub-package coverages and concepts to utilize him this week. So they took the 20 to 30 snaps they had given to Rush against the Titans, and gave them to Elijah Riley instead. Trust me, I am ecstatic to finally see Riley getting some playing time, but this shouldn’t have been an either or situation. The Steelers need Rush to develop into a press coverage capable CB2 in the near future. If you don’t believe me, just watch the game film against the Packers.
The Packers are in no way an offensive juggernaut, but the Steelers secondary made them look darn near elite at times. When the Steelers pass rush fails to apply consistent pressure, the Steelers soft zone concepts and athletic limitations within their secondary are readily exposed. After Alexander’s injury, the Steelers had serious coverage limitations on two levels. Elandon Roberts, Levi Wallace, and Keanu Neal are straight up liabilities in coverage, and the Packers exploited each of them on multiple occasions. Both of Love’s touchdown passes came at Wallace’s expense, although Neal was partially responsible for the second one also.
The Steelers are going to have to get creative to minimize this deficiency moving forward this season, or the more explosive offenses left on the schedule are going to feast. The Steelers need to poach an experienced inside linebacker off of a practice squad, or an available free agent that fits the description, preferably someone with coverage abilities. The Steelers need to have both Elijah Riley and Darius Rush active on gamedays. Both players have excellent closing speed, another characteristic in short supply at the moment.
Lastly, identify depth guys who possess the versatility to give you quality reps at multiple positions of need. In my opinion, Nick Herbig, Riley, and Rush more than fit that description. Minkah Fitzpatrick’s triumphant return is drawing near, and his presence will help alleviate a lot of what currently ails the Steelers defense, but proper personnel usage would go along way towards remedying the rest.
More from Steel Curtain Networkread more
You may also be interested inread more
Steel Curtain Network: A Pittsburgh Steelers podcast
Poor execution and blatant mistakes lead to a miserable day for the Steelers
Steel Curtain Network: A Pittsburgh Steelers podcast
My opinion of their opinion: Breaking down the Steelers PFF scores from Week 4