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Steelers Stock Report: Where is Steelers Stock trending after the win over the Titans

The AFC North is the best division in the NFL. That’s not hyperbole, people. Not opinion, just facts. If the playoffs started today, all four AFC North members would be participating. That is quite impressive indeed.

Every team in the AFC North division have a least one elite level characteristic. The Cincinnati Bengals have a healthy Joe Burrow led offense. The Baltimore Ravens maybe the most balanced team in the NFL, on both sides of the ball. Even the Cleveland Browns have an elite quality, as they possess the most suffocating defenses, in terms of aggressiveness, in the NFL.

That brings us to our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. What do the Steelers do at an elite level? What is their elite level characteristics? Possessing the tendency of good fortune. Could that be considered an elite level characteristic? I say good fortune because some members may not believe in luck. But no rational individual can argue that the Steelers haven’t been extremely fortunate to be 5-3 at the moment.

The Steelers have an elite level edge duo in T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Plus, they have an elite level opportunistic defense. I would even say that the Steelers have an elite level kicker in Chris Boswell. Outside of that, everything else is middle of the pack average at best.

So how are the Steelers currently sitting in second place in the best division in the NFL at the halfway point of the season? Smoke and mirrors? Maybe. But I like to believe it’s because of the Steelers hard earned winning culture. Cultivated over the past half century, and preserved by the blood, sweat, and tears of the generational warriors who respected the legacy. That’s the real answer to this question. In the end, the Steelers remain an elite franchise, even as they strive to return to contender status.

This season is all part of that process. The Steelers have numerous talented youngsters, with plenty of experienced veterans mixed in. There has been an abnormal amount of roster turnover these past few years, especially for a franchise renowned for their stability and conservative nature.

The good news is we have seen positive growth in recent weeks. The offensive line is starting to gel, the rookies continue to make a positive impact, and the coaches are showing a willingness to make necessary personnel and pass coverage adjustments. There is still time for the Steelers to improve, and improve they must, if they are going to remain competitive in the toughest division in the NFL.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Kenny Pickett

Last week I shared my concerns about Kenny Pickett’s durability. This week I want to share my admiration for his toughness, both physically and mentally. Anybody who has ever suffered a rib injury knows how debilitating it can be. Oftentimes it’s hard to breathe, much less focus fully on the task at hand. It makes even the simplest tasks more difficult, like trying to sleep, or tying your shoes. Now imagine how much it would effect your throwing motion, or trying to get up off the ground after being driven into the ground by a 300 lb. defensive lineman.

Pickett displayed impressive toughness by playing through the debilitating injury, and leading the Steelers to a desperately needed victory. Then Pickett showed maturity and accountability immediately after the game when he admitted he needed to play better, and that he missed some open opportunities during the game. What he didn’t do was blame his injuries, or others. No pity party or pouting, just leadership and poise.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Alex Highsmith

It must be hard to stand out when your partner in crime is collecting QB sacks without a helmet, but Highsmith somehow stole the show. Highsmith was the player of the game in my opinion. He finished with two sacks, after having one nullified by penalty, and at least 8 pressures. His pass rush arsenal continues to grow, and his spin moves are elite. Highsmith sets a mean edge against the run, and is a punishing tackler. He stopped Derrick Henry dead in his tracks on multiple occasions. Highsmith continues to impress and improve.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Kwon Alexander

We should all be thankful that the Steelers signed Alexander when they did. I have no idea why it took as long as it did, but Khan got the deal done, eventually. Alexander has taken his game to another level in recent weeks, especially his processing and play recognition. Obviously the byproduct of intense film study, Alexander’s preparedness is allowing him to play on an instinctual level. He is aggressively flying to the ball, both against the run and in coverage.

Alexander had developed an impressive rapport with Cole Holcomb, providing the Steelers with their best inside linebacker tandem since Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams. Sadly, Holcomb’s season is over due to a devastating knee injury. Now Alexander will have a new set of responsibilities, as he will be entrusted with the green dot. Both Elandon Roberts and Mark Robinson are pure seek and destroy punishers, known more for their physicality than their problem solving capabilities. Hopefully the added responsibilities won’t negatively impact Alexander’s performance moving forward.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Defense

The Steelers are still struggling to get off the field in a timely manner, primarily because they are allowing far too many third and long conversations, mainly due to the soft zone tendencies. However, there were rumors of a defensive team meeting prior to the Titans game, where the players were able to voice their displeasure with the aforementioned soft zone concepts. I believe that the rumors were true, because I saw a shift in coverage philosophy and personnel usage against the Titans. The Steelers are still extremely limited in their ability to play press coverage, with Joey Porter Jr being their only proven performer, but the Steelers are trying to rectify that situation apparently. Teryl Austin utilized talented rookie Darius Rush far more than expected throughout the game. The long and athletic Rush has exceptional potential as a press coverage corner. His continued usage bodes well for the Steelers flexibility and creativity moving forward.

The productive return of Cameron Heyward elevated the performance of the Steelers entire run defense. The Steelers had been getting gashed up the middle in his absence, but that changed against the Titans. The Steelers harassed and limited Derrick Henry at every turn. The defensive line did a solid job of collapsing the pocket around Will Levis, all while avoiding escape lanes. Keannu Benton was particularly disruptive throughout, seemingly energized by Heyward’s presence. Benton could have easily had a couple of sacks if he could have beaten the edge guys to the QB. His steady improvement has really stood out each week. Kids a keeper, no doubt.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Running backs

I just wanted to mention how pleased I am with the Steelers current usage of the position. If the offensive line can continue to gel and improve, then I see no reason why the Steelers rushing attack shouldn’t improve right along with it. The Steelers have the optimal gash and smash tandem in Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.

It has become painfully obvious that the Steelers need a 50/50 split of duties, or at least only deviate from that formula when it’s necessary to ride the hot hand in a favorable matchup. Harris was running with an improved sense of urgency against the Titans, and Warren continues to display the type of speed and power that defies his undrafted status. Warren is simply too good to keep off the field. That’s why the Steelers have had them both on the field at the same time on multiple occasions recently. Warren’s jet sweep for a first down was a thing of beauty; showcasing his speed, power, and determination.

Will you look at that, no Stock Trending Down this week. With all the negativity surrounding the Steelers after the Jaguars game, I thought we could all benefit from some much needed positivity. At least till next week. Go Steelers!


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