Welcome to the latest edition of the Steelers Stock Report of the 2020 NFL season: Jacksonville Jaguars edition. I have been granted the distinguished opportunity to attempt to determine which direction individual players, or units, are trending after each weekly matchup, to the best of my ability.
I will attempt to make each determination without the use of my Black-and-Gold glasses, but admittedly I can make no promises.
Let’s get started...
Steelers stock trending up: Dynamic Safety Duo
It was deuces wild for the Steelers starting safety tandem on Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was because SS Terrell Edmunds and FS Minkah Fitzpatrick finished the game with two interceptions each. For one half of what may very well constitute the best pair of starting safeties in the NFL; picking off two passes in a single game doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility, probably because he has shown a tendency to collect turnovers previously. For the other half of the equation, it boggles the mind because that skill set has never been displayed.
The Edmunds/Fitzpatrick duo is the best safety tandem the Steelers have had roaming the field since the Polamalu/Clark tag team brought the belts back to the Steel City. The excellence being displayed by the two young men was accurately suggested by yours truly during the offseason.
Minkah Fitzpatrick spoke openly during the offseason about how excited he was to be apart of the Steelers franchise and specifically to play with Terrell Edmunds. He implied that the sky is the limit for their pairing once they had an offseason and training camp to develop the trust and chemistry necessary to take their performances to the next level.
Although the offseason and training camp ended up being anything but normal, it appears that they utilized their limited time wisely and his expectations for their union are coming to fruition. Their skill sets are quite different, but together they make a perfect unit.
I am starting to believe that Fitzpatrick was born with a rabbits foot in his hand. He possesses the elite athleticism and instincts necessary to always be in the right spot at just the right time, but his propensity for turnovers goes much deeper than that. It's almost like the ball always bounces his way. The football is drawn to him, whether it be a deflection or a fumble rolling around in a sea of insanely large human beings.
Being fortunate only explains part of the equation. As I mentioned earlier, Fitzpatrick has the talent and intelligence to put himself in those positions, and the ball skills needed to complete the transaction.
Completely on the other end of the spectrum is where Terrell Edmunds has taken up residency during his NFL career. He has been found guilty of the crime of being over drafted in the eyes of many in the court of public opinion, and apparently nothing would ever change that image in the minds of a certain segment of Steelers faithful.
Multitude of articles have been written about who the Steelers coulda, woulda, and shoulda have chosen with that first round selection in 2018. Heaven help you if you disagreed with the tired narrative, and instead attempted to point out all the positive attributes of his game. You were quickly labeled a unrealistic homer, and I proudly wear the label of Edmunds biggest fan that was given to me. It was meant to be an insult, but I considered it a compliment.
Edmunds has shown consistent improvement each year in the league, and his career trajectory bares a striking resemblance to Bud Dupree. More raw athlete than skilled tactician, Edmunds played multiple positions in college for the betterment of the team, but at the detriment of his own development. Another example of being an exemplary teammate.
Edmunds is a fundamentally sound strong safety who has always excelled around the line of scrimmage. His tackling has improved each season, and he has shown the ability to shutdown opposing tight ends this season, long a Steelers weakness.
Lack of ball awareness has long been considered Edmunds' Achilles heel, and all the haters favorite topic of discussion, and for good reason. He never seemed to get his head around in time or pounce quickly enough on a loose ball. One game does not make him a ballhawk in anyway, but you have to start somewhere.
I don't believe that the second interception would have been possible had it not been for the initial one. He had finally got the proverbial monkey off his back and was confident enough to let his athleticism show through as he skied for that second pick. That was a thing of beauty, folks.
Steelers stock trending down: Preseason defensive expectations
I really wasn't sure about this section of the Stock Report. There really wasn't any glaring shortcomings that stood out in particular in a very businesslike beatdown of a completely overmatched Jaguars squad.
The running game continues to be inconsistent, but it also showed some improvement over recent weeks. LG Matt Feiler had a rough game at times, especially when he completely whiffed on his block attempt that forced Ben to scramble forward in the pocket, resulting in an off balanced, ill advised interception to end the first half.
As I was contemplating my options, I stumbled across a fascinating bit of information on Twitter. The Steelers currently lead the league in both interceptions and sacks. That brought back plenty of memories of some delightful BTSC discussions prior to the start of this season.
More than a few commenters were quick to point out that creating turnovers was a quality that tended to fluctuate greatly from one year to the next. The Steelers leading the NFL in sacks once again was entirely reasonable; they have done so for the three years prior, but that the Steelers faithful should temper their expectations for the Steelers to accumulate takeaways in bunches like what was so often the case last season. History shows that turnovers are entirely unpredictable.
Now the Steelers are once again leading the NFL in takeaways eleven weeks into the season, but the manner in which the Steelers defense has went about creating those turnovers has changed immensely.
Last season the Steelers, particularly TJ Watt, specialized in the strip sack and the punch out. While both of those methods continue to be part of the equation; howbeit to a lesser degree, the interception has become the Steelers main form of acquisition this season. They lead the NFL with 15 picks at the moment.
This has been the direct result of coupling the most ferocious pass rush in the NFL with a talented secondary that has had ample time to develop a rapport together as a unit. Barring injury, I expect that chemistry to only improve moving forward.
Steelers stock currently undervalued: Alejandro Villanueva
I have to point this out for any Steelers fans who might have missed this incredible statistic after yesterday's game. The Steelers are presently ten games into a campaign whereas they have yet to taste defeat, and LT Alejandro Villanueva has yet to have surrendered a single QB sack of the face of the franchise Ben Roethlisberger. Not to shabby for a former UDFA who already achieved the distinguished honor of being an Army Ranger prior to his admirable NFL career. He should be an easy selection for his third Pro Bowl after the season. The consummate Pittsburgh Steeler.