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- Steelers Stock Report: Whose stock is falling after the loss to the Jaguars
Steelers Stock Report: Whose stock is falling after the loss to the Jaguars
As a franchise, you can never lose sight of the big picture.
For almost two decades with Big Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers considered themselves Super Bowl contenders. How many times have we heard the Steelers proudly confess that the Lombardi Trophy was their priority destination every season? For the most part, with a franchise QB and numerous other superstars leading the way, it seemed like a realistic mission statement.
That was then, and this is now. Time to live in the really real world. The Steelers haven’t been realistic contenders since 2017. The Steelers have somehow lost all sense of balance, and are perpetually top heavy. Have been for years. Over-reliant on one side of the ball. For years it was the Killer B’s carrying the heavy load. In recent years it has been the defense, which really shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering it is the highest paid defense in the league.
This disturbing trend has made the Steelers one dimensional and predictable. To make matters worse, I question if the Steelers have adjusted their mission statement along the way. Simply looking big picture, figuring out whether Kenny Pickett could potentially develop into a franchise QB should be priority #1 this season. However, I fear the decision to retain OC Matt Canada prior to the start of the season is going to hinder the Steelers ability to answer that question.
Steelers Stock Trending Up: Joey Porter Jr
Porter was everything I expected in his first career start. He displayed his impressive press coverage abilities, and he continues to appear far less comfortable in zone. Porter’s tackling showed improvement, with solid effort throughout the game. There were a few communication issues, which is to be expected with a rookie. Especially when the captain of the secondary goes down with an injury. Overall, an encouraging first start.
Steelers Stock Trending Concerning: Kenny Pickett
Here’s a statement for you: I honestly believe that the Steelers would have won the game if Pickett hadn’t been injured. Pickett was starting to find his rhythm in the second quarter, and was just starting to move the football consistently when he was knocked out of the game. I have enough faith in Pickett’s will to win and clutch tendencies to still believe he can be a Top 10 QB in the NFL, and a consistent winner for the Steelers.
However, I do have one huge concern, and it might not be what you are expecting. I believe in Pickett’s talent and intangibles, but I am starting to question his durability. Maybe two decades of having a big, strong, tough franchise QB has tainted my view, but Pickett is starting to look pretty frail all of a sudden. He doesn’t just get sacked, he gets engulfed. I hold my breath every time Pickett gets driven to the ground. Concussion, shoulder injury, clavicle? I honestly can’t remember sitting on the edge of my seat after every QB hit like I do now. In the long run, durability may prove to be Pickett’s biggest weakness.
Steelers Stock Trending Down: Safeties
I wasn’t sure how to label this section, because I didn’t want to imply Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t earning his hefty contract thus far this season. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He is worth every penny, and has arguably been the Steelers most dependable player. Fitzpatrick has been the glue that has held the backend of the Steelers defense together this year. He has been required to be a jack of all trades, the ultimate security blanket, since the departure of longtime running mate Terrell Edmunds. His splash play ability has been basically neutered, but his all around game continues to blossom. The Steelers are not an NFL caliber secondary without him. That’s very concerning.
The two players that the Steelers hoped would be able to replace Edmunds have struggled to fulfill their duties. Both are miscast in their current roles. Damontae Kazee is not a strong safety, much less a starter. The closer he gets to the LOS, the less effective he becomes. Kazee lacks the size and physicality of a strong safety. He missed multiple tackles against the Jaguars, and wasn’t strong enough to keep runners short of the sticks on other occasions. He took bad angles on a couple of occasions, particularly on the Jaguars back breaking long TD catch and run. Even his interception was more lucky than good, resulting from a terrible decision by the usually reliable Trevor Lawrence. Kazee is a sub-package deep safety, who is currently playing out of position.
Keanu Neal is the second coming of Mark Barron and Morgan Burnett. For whatever reason, the Steelers love to bring in undersized tweeners who recently surpassed their expiration date. The aforementioned two immediately come to mind. Guys with impressive physicality, who no longer possess the speed and mobility to be effective. That description fits Neal to a tee. Neal is atrocious in coverage, and the Jaguars utilized TE Evan Engram too easily exploit him repeatedly throughout the game. Neal is another player better served as a sub-package specialist at this point in his career. He lacks that luxury with the Steelers.
Steelers Stock Trending Down: Mason Cole
Just when you think Cole has turned his season around, another troubling issue raises it’s ugly head. On Sunday, Cole apparently forgot how to accurately snap the football. His shotgun snaps were all over the place against the Jaguars. High, low, left, or right. The quarterbacks were having to direct their initial attention on corralling his errant snaps, costing them precious moments needed to focus downfield. For whatever reason, this has become a reoccurring trend for Steelers starting centers in recent years. That’s an issue that needs rectified immediately.
Steelers Stock Trending Down: Discipline
If you are going to talk to talk, you have to walk the walk. I mentioned that exact statement concerning George Pickens in an article last week. Not sure if Pickens fully realizes it yet or not, but his recent success and antics have placed a huge target on his back. This week he partook in some trash talking with some Jaguars defensive backs leading up to the game, and became an even bigger focal point for their defense in the process.
There is one huge problem for any receiver talking trash before a game. No matter how great a receiver you may actually be, you can’t throw yourself the football. You aren’t designing the game plan, or calling the plays. You are relying on the offensive line to protect the QB well enough for him to throw you the ball. That’s what makes football the ultimate team sport, and it can humble any player in a moments notice. Playing professional football is hard enough, without letting your mouth raise the stakes, making it more difficult than it has to be. See JuJu Smith Schuster for a recent example. Actions always speak louder than words.
The NFL trade deadline is Halloween at 4:00, so Tuesday is the Steelers last chance to solidify their secondary. Based on all available evidence, it’s easily their biggest need moving forward this season. If not, the Steelers are in real danger of finishing last in their division. It’s really simple, change nothing and nothing changes.
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