The Pittsburgh Steelers have hit a lot of home runs throughout the NFL Draft in recent years, but none as big as the first three picks of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Artie Burns, Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave are three players who were starters as rookies and who are continuing to develop throughout their sophomore seasons. But while Burns and Davis might get the most publicity, mainly because of their more visible positions, Hargrave might be the most improved of the trio and a truly unheralded player on the team’s improving defense.
Finally, Hargrave is getting some publicity after his dominant performance against the Detroit Lions in Week 8.
Time to check on the news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers outside the walls of BTSC:
The Steelers got any number of big plays from different defenders during three of their goal-line stands against the Detroit Lions—everyone from Tyson Alualu and Vince Williams to Sean Davis and Mike Hilton.
But of the eight plays from inside the 6-yard line in Ford Field on Sunday night, nobody made as many big plays as Javon Hargrave, who’s quickly becoming the most disruptive Steelers nose tackle since Casey Hampton.
It was his tackle on running back Dwayne Washington on third down at the Steelers’ 1-yard line that highlighted the first goal-line stand on which the Lions failed to score on three plays from the 3-foot line. Hargrave hit Washington so hard the 223-pound running back’s knees buckled at impact.
“When you buckle backs like that in the hole, those are the kind of hits that win games,” former offensive lineman Brian Baldinger said on NFL Network, where he works as an analyst.
“He was going to win that or I was going to win that,” Hargrave said. “He wasn’t getting in.”
Then, on the Lions’ final chance to tie the game from the Steelers’ 8-yard line, Hargrave took center Travis Swanson and pushed him back to quarterback Matthew Stafford, forcing a quick and errant throw that Ryan Shazier almost intercepted, effectively ending the game.
“He put [Swanson] in the quarterback’s lap,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said.
“I got one-on-one with the center, and I ended up winning it,” Hargrave said. “That was good.”
As the Steelers prepare for the second half of the season, two of their star players are making the types of contributions anticipated when training camp ended.
Le'Veon Bell, despite being a no-show until September, is the NFL's second-leading rusher with 760 yards, and he also ranks second in scrimmage yards.
Antonio Brown is living up to the $68 million contract he signed in February. He has caught the most passes (57) for the most yardage (835) in the NFL, leading both categories by a wide margin.
But at the midpoint, the outlook isn't so bright for two other high-profile offensive players. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown only one more touchdown pass than interceptions, is ranked No. 24 in passer rating and has been inconsistent with his deep passes.
Martavis Bryant, widely expected to provide the passing game with another dynamic playmaker after a one-year absence, isn't even the top No. 2 receiving threat on his team, giving way to rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster. Four other players have caught more passes on the Steelers this year than Bryant, whose 18 catches rank outside the top-100 NFL receivers, and his 234 yards are tied for 91st.
The inconsistent play of Roethlisberger and Bryant is one reason the Steelers rank No. 20 in points per game despite a 6-2 record that puts them in a tie for the best in the AFC.
“I don't think we've played our best ball offensively,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Tuesday. “But we're in a good position, and the second half of the season things really get rolling.”
Some three and a half years after he first signed with an NFL team, offensive lineman Matt Feiler finally got into a regular-season game on Sunday.
And what a situation it was for the offensive lineman from Lancaster County and Bloomsburg.
“It was kind of a big moment in the game,” Feiler said.
One-possession lead, on the road in a loud venue, 3rd-and-15, ball in the Steelers territory, less than six minutes to play.
“Going into it, kind of backed up, coming out of our end zone, and we need to get a first down there,” Feiler said, “so I need to get in there and do what I could to get my job done.”
Feiler played that snap and eight more in another possession as the Steelers closed out a 20-15 victory at Detroit. He acquitted himself well in the seven snaps he played that mattered (two were end-of-game kneel-downs).
Feiler was pressed into duty when Chris Hubbard was forced to leave the game to be evaluated for a concussion. Hubbard is the backup to injured starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert (out with a hamstring injury).
“Just trust the mechanics,” Feiler said. “The techniques that you’ve learned over the years, coaching points from (Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak) and everybody, so it's just relying on instincts pretty much.”
Feiler had been moved to guard last season but recently was getting practice reps at tackle. He won the No. 4 tackle job ahead of second-year player Jerald Hawkins.