Welcome to the latest edition of the Steelers Stock Report of the 2020 NFL season: Houston Texans 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...
Stock trending up: Chukwuma Okorafor
Another week where the Steelers have multiple players and units worthy of stock trending up consideration. That is a great problem to have as a franchise. More evidence of the success the Steelers are enjoying on the field thus far this season.
Ben Roethlisberger is the straw that stirs the drink, and although he was erratic at times, he protected the football and engineered yet another late game clinching drive. Last season's dreadful QB play seems like a distant memory.
After a uncharacteristically shaky first half, the defense made some halftime adjustments and were quietly dominant in the second half. The Texans had 51 yards of total offense in the second half, and 8 yards rushing during that time. Two total first downs and zero points scored. The Steelers had more second half sacks of Deshaun Watson than the Texans had first downs. That sounds pretty dominant to me.
Mike Hilton had a particularly impressive day on defense, including the only turnover by either team on the day. His fourth quarter interception kick started the Steelers scoring drive that gave them the lead they never surrendered.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that T.J. Watt won the Watt Family Honor Bowl with his outstanding all around effort, including a sack that was as cerebral as it was beautiful. T.J. had to work for every impact play, as he was being chipped by a back and focused on throughout the game.
The Watt family storyline leads me to my selection of Chukwuma Okorafor as the player who's stock is trending up the most after the Texans game. Okorafor played a solid game last week also, but was overshadowed by a rookie making the most of his first NFL opportunity to start. This week, Okorafor was impossible to overlook.
At one point late in the game, my wife looked at me and asked me this very innocent but telling question "I thought the Texans had a Watt brother playing for them too today?" I immediately thought to myself that Okorafor must be a magician, because he done went and made J.J. Watt disappear. Great job by the young man.
Stock trending down: NFL Replay System
Let me start this by acknowledging that NFL officials have one of the toughest and unenviable jobs on the planet. That's why I am all for the replay system. Take the human element, and our propensity for error, out of the equation. That stands at the heart of the replay system.
Therefore, how in the world do the replay officials keep getting so many of these replay decisions wrong? We all know which play I am referring to. On the particularly important third down play in question, the Steelers 38 year old franchise QB is flushed from the pocket to his right and starts lumbering toward the first down marker. He stiff arms a defender and dives for the marker with ball extended. Replay clearly shows the ball is well past the line to get when his knee touches down in the field of play. The official marked it short, and Tomlin correctly challenges the ruling on the field.
I immediately praised Tomlin's decision and waited for the call to be overturned, but upon returning from commercial the ruling on the field stands was the decision. Unbelievable and unacceptable. Somewhere along the lines last season it became apparent that was going to be the norm in all but the most grievous of situations, but I believe this one qualifies.
Just for good measure, later in the game a Houston Texans punt bounced near the Steelers 48 yard line and went out around the 46. I watched the official mark the ball at the 43. I was screaming that was not right as we cut to yet another commercial. I was sure someone from the Steelers sidelines would speak up and call attention to the mistake. Back from the commercial break, there was the ball at the Steelers 43, and away we go. The officials, and apparently the Steelers staff, have to do a better job before it cost the team dearly.
Stock status remains unsettled: Matt Feiler
Last season was a offensive nightmare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one I am happy to forget. One bright spot was the performance of Matt Feiler at RT. He was the most consistent offensive performer for the Steelers last season in my opinion. He has been anything but so far this season.
Feiler shows incredible versatility by being able to man every position along the offensive line in an emergency, but just because a player can play multiple positions doesn't mean they should. Even a versatile player like Feiler has some positions where they are a better fit than others. That's what I feel is currently happening with Feiler at left guard.
Feiler has yet to look completely comfortable at the position. He mixes in the occasional lapse in judgment or missed assignment with his otherwise solid performances. He currently isn't the confident and consistent player he was last year at right tackle.
Therein lies a huge problem for Feiler and the Steelers. Feiler isn't moving back to right tackle anytime soon barring injury, because Okorafor has claimed that position and is playing splendidly. Young stud Kevin Dotson is going to force his way back onto the field sooner rather than later, that you can be certain.
Feiler is a free agent after this season, and he needs to settle in somewhere along the line and perform up to the standards he set last season to earn that big payday, whether it be in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. Hopefully he finds his groove as the season progresses.