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Steelers Stock Report: Whose stock is rising after beating the Raiders

Every journey starts with but a single step. What happens after that first step determines the trajectory of the journey, and the likelihood of you ever reaching your intended destination.

The Steelers took an important step in their journey on primetime against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday Night Football. Even the most optimistic Steelers fanatic didn’t know what to expect in this matchup.

The Steelers own Monday Night Football, but have been vulnerable on other primetime matchups. Even worse, the Raiders always give the Steelers trouble, regardless of records. Sometimes a franchise just has your number, and the Raiders have definitely been that franchise for the Steelers. If that wasn’t worrisome enough, the Steelers have been notoriously bad for decades the closer they get to the West Coast.

The Steelers managed to overcome all of  those negative tendencies enough to emerge victorious in the Sin City. While their performance was far from perfect, they managed to take multiple steps in the right direction.

Now it’s time to see what direction Steelers Stock is trending after their second victory of the 2023 NFL season.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Kenny Pickett

Pickett achieved his first 2 touchdown passing game of his NFL career Sunday night. He stood tall in the pocket before throwing a beautiful deep ball down the middle to Calvin Austin lll on his first TD of the game. Then he rolled to his left and made an athletic throw on a corner route to a wide open Pat Freiermuth for the other.

It was nice to see Pickett get the chance to orchestrate the offense against lesser competition. He had been feed a steady diet of stacked boxes, and relentless pressure, from two of the best defensive fronts in the NFL over the first 2 weeks of the season. The Raiders valiantly tried to duplicate those tactics, but they just didn’t have the arsenal.

Every young QB needs adequate protection, some semblance of a running game, and realistic expectations. Pickett received all three Sunday night, and the results were encouraging. Hopefully Pickett can build off the positivity.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Opportunistic defense

I was shocked to see leading up to the game that the Raiders were the only team in the NFL that hadn’t given up a single QB sack through the first two weeks of the season. I thought to myself, that’s about to change. I was correct, but it was no where near as easy as I thought it was going to be.

The Steelers accumulated 4 sacks on the night, with T.J. Watt adding 2 more to his league leading total. However, the truth is, the Steelers formidable pass rush was stymied for most of the contest by the Raiders stout pass protection, which includes RB Josh Jacobs. Couple that with Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release, and Davante Adams being perpetually open, and the Steelers pass rush struggled to get home. Even when the Steelers were unable to reach Garoppolo, they pressured him into numerous mistakes, including 3 interceptions.

Turnovers are a fluky statistic, as they are impossible to predict. The Steelers defense has been putting the bend but don’t break ideology to the test each week, but have been bailed out on numerous occasions by their penchant for creating turnovers. Good fortune is great, but I would prefer that the Steelers defense cleans up their tackling, and tightens up their pass coverage. Being fortunate isn’t a sustainable game plan.

Steelers Stock Trending Up and Down simultaneously: Levi Wallace

The best of times, the worst of times. I can’t remember ever thinking that a player with multiple interceptions in a single game was struggling, but that’s the reality of Wallace’s night in Sin City.

Wallace was completely mismatched against Davante Adams, who happened to be his primary matchup for the night. Adams was targeted early and often, and he had a huge game. To be fair, the Steelers stubbornly adhered to their soft zone tendencies, which made Garoppolo’s job much easier. But to be honest, that’s the only coverage concepts that Wallace is capable of executing consistently.

Wallace reminded us all that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and Wallace found Lady Luck smiling on him in Sin City. Without the interceptions, fans would still be calling for Wallace to find a comfortable seat on the bench. Two interceptions later, not so much.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Play calling

Time for the most shocking comment in this article: I have no idea who the primary play caller was for the Steelers last night, but all available evidence and recent history suggests it wasn’t Matt Canada. The plays were obviously from his playbook, but the play calling rhythm was definitely different.

The Steelers ran more play action than we have seen in years. More importantly, they ran them successfully. Many of the most prolific plays in the game came off play action, and across the middle of the field. Pickett hit Pickens on a couple of crossing routes off play action, there was a well timed and executed middle screen to Jaylen Warren, Calvin Austin’s long TD catch came on a post play down the middle, and Freiermuth’s TD came on a play action rollout.

Two concepts that have been missing in action for the Steelers for years. I am not connected enough to fathom a guess on who influenced last night’s positive shift in play calling, but I can tell you this; I loved the changes.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Pressley Harvin III

Once is an occurrence, twice is a trend. Harvin has stacked back to back strong performances for the first time in his career. It only seems fair that I share a section of my article commending his second above the line performance in a row, because I have been more than willing to condemn his past subpar ones.

Harvin has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and he has Pro Bowl potential if he ever finds the consistency needed to maximize his capabilities. One more bit of praise; Harvin has done an outstanding job as Chris Boswell’s trusted holder. Harvin’s body language has been more positive and confident this year. An unmistakable sign of maturity at the position.

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