Welcome to the latest edition of the Steelers Stock Report of the 2020 NFL season: Baltimore Ravens 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:
Sometimes a loss can feel almost like a win, but the opposite also holds true. Every card carrying member of Steelers Nation knows that to be true because Wednesday afternoon's sluggish victory over the undermanned Baltimore Ravens left the majority of Steelers fans feeling like we had just taken a bath in muddy water. The Steelers won the game to remain undefeated on the season at 11-0, but nobody felt like celebrating. Not only because of a totally uninspired lackluster all around effort by the team, but due to the damaging loss of an irreplaceable component of their championship aspirations. More on that later.
Most games thus far this season it has honestly been difficult to narrow all the worthy candidates for this recognition down to two or three, but I am honestly struggling to identify a player, coach, or positional group that stood out enough in a positive manner to warrant distinction.
The Steelers defense finished the game with 3 QB sacks, 8 TFLs, a fumble recovery, and a interception returned for a touchdown. TJ Watt continues to enjoy a DPOY worthy campaign, picking up two sacks on the day and creating havoc on every play. Cameron Heyward had the other sack and collapsed the pocket on multiple occasions, including his roughing the passer penalty that was anything but on one occasion. Joe Haden made the aforementioned pick six, which turned out to be far more important than any fan could fathom when it actually happened. Minkah Fitzpatrick made the clutch TD saving pass breakup to end the first half.
Plenty of Steelers defenders enjoyed impactful moments throughout the game, but shouldn't that be expected of arguably the most dominant defense in the NFL against an opponent missing their best player; reigning NFL MVP QB Lamar Jackson, and their top four skill position players? I doubt you could find a single Steelers defender that feels like they played up to the standard that they have set for themselves and their unit.
The Steelers offense was even more disappointing if we are being honest. There were a few hardnosed individual efforts scattered throughout the game: highlighted by JuJu Smith Schuster stiff arming his way through defenders, Benny Snell bulldozing Ravens CB Marcus Peters for valuable fourth quarter yards, and James Washington corralling an extremely difficult contested catch to seal the game. However, the Steelers offense as a whole left much to be desired. Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger said as much immediately after the game. Roethlisberger stepped up and took the blame, but he was far from the only culprit.
Steelers stock trending down: Dropped passes
Not all dropped passes are created equal. Some are almost excusable on occasion, and are to be expected from fallible human beings, by which we all are found guilty. That being said, there were multiple drops by different Steelers receivers against the Ravens that were absolute drive killers that took potential points off the scoreboard and resulted in a margin of victory for the Steelers that was far closer than it should have ever been.
There were moments in the game that I was forced to wonder if ex-Steelers WR Donte Moncrief had visited the Steelers facilities over the Thanksgiving weekend and infected the Steelers pass catchers with a serious case of his butterfingers disease. You remember him I feel certain, the man who took it upon himself to single handily destroy the Steelers chances of sustaining any semblance of a scoring drive whenever he entered the game last season. That's how bad Wednesday's performance was for the Steelers receiving core.
Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron took turns dropping potential touchdown passes and crucial first downs. We must always be fair and balanced when pointing out any player failing to meet their own expectations, as it is easy to forget all their extraordinary accomplishments this season immediately after such a subpar performance. The harsh reality is that many dropped passes are akin to a turnover, especially on third down plays, resulting in a change of possession. Most definitely game changing, momentum killing moments.
Whatever the reasons for all the drops against a shorthanded division rival; whether it was a simple lack of focus and timing after being jerked around yet again by Roger Goodell and the NFL decision makers, further amplified by the death of a Steelers family member during their frustratingly unscheduled downtime, the simple truth remains that the performance of the Steelers receiving core was unacceptable all around and will not get the job done against a quality opponent not decimated by injuries and a COVID outbreak.
Steelers stock currently plummeting: Power rankings
Time for some brutal honesty. This is my own personal assessment of the Pittsburgh Steelers at this point of the 2020 NFL season, regardless of what the national sports pundits and the myriad of power rankings may say. The Steelers are a top five team at the moment, but they are not currently the best team in the NFL.
They have the potential to be; even after the devastating season ending losses of key contributors Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, a pair of starting linebackers on their league leading defense, but there is much work to be done to make that potential come to fruition. Having extreme potential is all well and good, but it's going to take plenty of hard work and dedication to turn the Steelers realistic dreams into reality.
The key to unlocking the Steelers unrealized potential begins and ends with Ben Roethlisberger. Suffice it to say, Roethlisberger has made a complete recovery from his elbow surgery. He can make every throw in the book, and his timing and ability to accurately diagnosis defenses has never been better. This has resulted in improved ball security, even if he can't help himself from making the occasional irrational throw at a seemingly inopportune moment. The Steelers offense is totally dependent on his Hall of Fame caliber abilities, and will only go as far as he can carry them. He has proven on three occasions that he can lead a team to a Super Bowl, and walked away victorious on two of those.
Questions abound throughout the roster. Do the Steelers have the talent, creativity, and motivation necessary to develop a rushing attack efficient enough to win a Super Bowl? Does Big Ben have a receiver that he can count on in the biggest moments, or does he have multiple options? Can the Steelers continue to rely on the short passing attack to put enough points on the board to win the game, especially during bad weather games and with defensive coordinators game planning to take that option away?
In the end, winning the game is all that really matters. Power rankings and expert opinions are meaningless, nothing more than talk show fodder. The most talented team often doesn't win the game, but the more efficient team usually does. The Steelers are going to be in the playoffs, so the time to talk potential is rapidly coming to a end.
The Steelers need to be firing on all cylinders when the playoffs roll around in the near future. Time for the Steelers to put some hustle behind all that muscle.