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Steelers Stock Report: Whose stock is rising and falling after the Week 7 win over the Bengals

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Which Steelers players are on the upswing and which ones are sliding in the wake of Sunday’s big win over Cincinnati? Find out in this week’s Stock Report.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

If the following .gif doesn’t perfectly encapsulate the recent history of Steelers-Bengals rivalry, I don’t know what does:

Le’Veon Bell accumulated 192 all-purpose yards in Pittsburgh’s 29-14, Week 7 victory over the Bengals. Forty-two of these yards came on the above catch-and-run on which he tossed aside Dre Kirkpatrick—a 6-foot-2, 195-pound adult professional football human—like a small child. Seriously, watch it again. This is not your standard, run-of-the-mill stiff arm. Typically, a stiff arm is just that; rigid and meant to prevent would-be tacklers from getting close enough to grab a handful of jersey.

Bell began by putting his hand on Kirkpatrick’s shoulder, which probably would’ve been enough to keep Kirkpatrick—who signed a $52 million contract extension this off-season—from making a tackle. Unsatisfied, Bell slid his hand upward, settling on Kirkpatrick’s left cheek. He then waited for Kirkpatrick to commit to the tackle. When Kirkpatrick did, Bell buckled his elbow and slammed the now off-balance Kirkpatrick to the ground like a basketball. (The basketball analogy is accurate, by the way, because Kirkpatrick hit the ground with such force that he essentially bounced back to an upright position without breaking stride). It was easily one of the three most disrespectful stiff arms I’ve ever seen. Actually, yeah, let’s rank them:

3. This

2. LaDainian Tomlinson’s stiff arm against Washington en-route to a walk-off overtime touchdown. It was against Ryan Clark!

1. The Beast Quake. This is pretty subjective, since I love Marshawn Lynch, but how are you even gonna dispute this (skip to 1:39 to feast on the carnage).

Bell is now the second-leading rusher in the NFL and just one Jeremy Hill rushing attempt short of 900 total yards for the season. Importantly, despite his slow start to the 2017 season, Bell is now on pace to gain 2,000 all-purpose yards for the season. This is certainly achievable, especially if Bell continues to touch the football 30 or so times per game. And he probably will, considering that Pittsburgh is a healthy 4-0 when he does so.

Bell’s stock is safely up. But *movie trailer voice* what about everyone else? No, their stock is up, too. Everyone except...

Martavis Bryant - Stock down

Bryant responded to Antonio Brown’s now-infamous Gatorade cooler incident by saying that he “doesn’t do that kind of stuff.” Bryant does, however, have a demonstrated penchant for sounding off on his teammates via social media. After the Steelers selected JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Bryant jumped on Twitter to assure his followers that Smith-Schuster was Sammie Coates’ replacement, not his (and retrospectively, Bryant was kind of right, being that Coates was shipped to Cleveland at the end of training camp). Following Sunday’s win over Cincinnati—a game in which Bryant was targeted just twice, catching one pass for two yards and watching another sail over his head—Bryant wrote an Instagram post (which has since been deleted) bluntly indicating that he’s a better receiver than Smith-Schuster.

Predictably, Bryant took a personal day on Monday, leaving his teammates to once again answer questions concerning his commitment to the team on his behalf. Forgive the speculative language, but there seems to be some veracity to the trade rumors that first surfaced a week ago. Nonetheless, the Steelers still aren’t actively trying to trade Bryant, which is exactly the type of thing I would say to a reporter asking questions regarding my intention to trade Martavis Bryant.

Mid-season trades are pretty rare in the NFL, and Bryant has virtually no leverage to demand a trade. But let’s say there is a trade in the works. Smith-Schuster is a solid young player, but, with clear Super Bowl aspirations and a quarterback who could be playing golf full-time by this time next season, the Steelers would likely want to recoup a veteran No. 2 receiver.

A potential trade partner would need to be a seller, that’s a given. Obviously, it would help if the prospective business partner was in a different conference and didn’t play the Steelers this season.

Bryant carries risk, for sure, but he has No. 1 potential. He’s also under team control for one more season and his contract is dirt cheap. To sweeten the pot, the Steelers could maybe throw in a draft pick, especially if the trade partner is willing to eat some of the veteran receiver’s salary.

A dream proposal: Bryant and a draft pick (like a fourth-rounder, or something) to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald.

(Just let me have this).

The secondary: Stock up

For those of you who haven’t already jumped into the comment section to deconstruct the aforementioned trade request, hello, and thank you for sticking around. At this point in the NFL season, the only remaining inevitabilities are that Vontaze Burfict will do something stupid and that the talent of Pittsburgh’s secondary will be downplayed.

The Steelers held Andy Dalton to an impressive 140 yards on 17 completions, which is an accomplishment even more praiseworthy given that Dalton attempted 30 passes. Joe Haden also caught his first interception as a member of the Steelers! Good for you, Joe Haden! I’m so happy for him.

We’re running out of excuses. Andy Dalton is no Tom Brady, but the Red Rocket is no Curtis Painter, either. This guy is two years removed from a legitimate MVP campaign! A.J. Green is easily one of the five best receivers in the NFL (and the second-leading receiver this season), and the Steelers held him to 41 yards on three catches (one of which was terrifically defended by Haden; Dalton just made a great throw and Green made a better catch). The Steelers straight up outplayed these guys.

And one guy can’t even take all the credit! Haden received the glory for stealing an interception from Green’s fingertips, but Artie Burns and Mike Hilton both played admirably when Bill Lazor (or Marvin Lewis, whoever is calling the offensive plays for Cincinnati, I don’t know) attempted to shift Green around the formation.

Pittsburgh’s secondary was supposed to be a multi-year reclamation project. We expected to see some improvement in Year Two, yes, but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted that this unit would be sitting a distant first in the league in pass defense after seven games. They could very well end the season in this position, too. The Steelers will face the following quarterbacks over the next 10 weeks: Matt Stafford, Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Dalton (again), Joe Flacco, Tom Brady (yikes), Deshaun Watson (also yikes) and whoever has the misfortune of suiting up for the Browns in Week 17 (Tim Duncan Guy, maybe).

There are undoubtedly some imposing figures on that list, but nobody (aside from Brady, duh) who should cause Keith Butler to break into jammies-soaking night sweats the night before kickoff. It’s evident that Pittsburgh’s defensive backs, in addition to being a talented group of dudes, are playing with a level of confidence unseen since the beginning of the decade. That will go a long way in sustaining their track record of excellence thus far.

The run game - Stock up

This is kind of an addendum to Bell’s section, but the offensive line deserves due credit for gashing a Bengals front seven that has been mostly solid against the run this season.

3rd down offense - Stock down

The Steelers won by 15, but they should’ve probably won by, I don’t know, 700 or 800 points. You hate to question the methodology that produced the results, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do right now.

Pittsburgh was two for 11 on third down, which, in a vacuum, is decidedly not awesome. Well, this isn’t entirely accurate: Pittsburgh’s ineptitude on third down proved to be a significant boon to Chris Boswell, who drilled five field goals. In general, though, Pittsburgh’s 18-percent conversion rate on third-down did little to placate those pesky red-zone offense concerns.

On their first drive of the second half, Bell was stuffed short on 3rd-and-1, causing the Steelers to settle for a field goal. Two plays later, Haden intercepted a Dalton pass in Bengals territory, giving the Steelers the opportunity to deliver a rare third quarter kill-shot. Cognizant of this, Roethlisberger fired a deep ball to Brown on 3rd-and-1, which fell incomplete (negligible pass interference notwithstanding). Again, the Steelers settled for a field goal. On their next offensive series, the Steelers brought in Terrell Watson to handle a 4th-and-1. He, too, was stopped short. After this (!!), the Steelers called yet another deep pass to Brown on 3rd-and-short.

The mysterious nature of Pittsburgh’s third quarter play-call, I think, is a product of the trust that the Steelers now have in their defense. Like, why not attempt a low-percentage 30-yard bomb on 3rd-and-1? If it fails, you just rely on your very talented defense to handle its business. If it succeeds, you build an effectively-insurmountable three-possession lead.

Of course, the Steelers did ultimately get their kill-shot...

Danny Smith’s oysters - Stock up

GOAT.

Rookies - Stock up

JuJu caught his third touchdown of the season on Sunday and orchestrated perhaps the most blatantly fun-loving and family-friendly touchdown celebration of all time. I’m sure lots of folks wish he would “quit clownin’ arouhnd and just play football like Hines Ward,” but whatever, it’s 2017.

T.J. Watt, meanwhile, registered his fourth sack of the season and, much like Le’Veon Bell, became an instant meme in the process. It’s like the Jordan logo for white dudes.

The game ball - Styx

Following the customary playing of “Renegade,” the Steelers registered a pair of sacks and forced the Bengals into a 4th-and-34. Thank you for the win, Tommy Shaw. Or Dennis DeYoung. I have no idea who wrote it.

The Ben Roethlisberger Retirement Index

Ben is back, baby! Well, not really (he was a very efficient 14 for 24 for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns), but at least he isn’t throwing back-breaking interceptions and missing a ton of throws. Pittsburgh’s offensive identity is wisely Bell-centric—though Brown is still getting his requisite share of looks each game—which is translating to wins. The gunslinging, 350 yards-per-game Ben Roethlisberger of 2015 appears to be indefinitely dormant, if not gone altogether.

But this is fine. Ben Roethlisberger won two Super Bowls on the strength of solid rushing attacks and all-world defenses, so it stands to reason that the Steelers would adopt a similar formula in pursuit of his third. Plus, if running the ball means fewer sacks (and it does—Ben has been sacked just once in the past two weeks), maybe it’ll convince Ben to stick around for an additional season to throw passes to Larry Fitzgerald.

The Steelers are 5-2, in first place in the AFC, and will likely be heavily favored in all but one of their remaining games. That outlook has me like:

Give him a 5 this week.