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Discussing which Steelers players or positions are trending up, trending down, or simply treading water.
Welcome to the first edition of the Steelers Stock Report of the 2020 NFL season. 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: Bud Dupree
Stats can be misleading. Dupree in no way stuffed the stat sheet Monday night against the New York Giants. He registered neither a single sack or forced turnover. I find that incredibly ironic, because Dupree was the most dominant, disruptive defender on the field for the entirety of the game.
I acknowledge that in multiple occasions Dupree enjoyed favorable matchups, even going unblocked a few times, but it is still up to the player to make the opposition pay dearly in those situations, and Dupree did just that. He setup camp in the Giants backfield and made himself at home, much to the dismay of Giants RB Saquon Barkley.
I don’t want to imply that Barkley will be haunted by visions of Dupree in his nightmares for the foreseeable future, but I feel certain that he checked under his bed and in his closet for Dupree’s presence before climbing into bed Monday night.
If Dupree wasn’t plastering Barkley in the backfield a nanosecond after he received the handoff, he was running the superstar runner down from behind. For me, the most impressive display by Dupree on the night wasn’t the unbelievable athleticism displayed by a 270 lbs individual, but the nonstop determination he showed to make an impact every single snap.
I have referenced Devin Bush’s ability to play sideline to sideline due to his speed and athleticism often in previous articles, but Dupree’s range is unbelievable, coupled with that size and the nonstop motor.
Dupree made some series moolah under the Monday Night Football spotlight.
Stock trending down: James Conner
It pains me to write this, because I am a big fan of the young man and it was apparent to anybody paying attention how hard Conner worked this off season to report to camp in the best shape of his career. Conner is the epitome of courage and determination, and his work ethic is unquestioned.
That’s what makes his tendency for nagging injuries that much more frustrating. No matter how hard he works to get himself in supreme physical condition, he has simply been unable to remain healthy and on the field.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin remains resistant to a running back by committee scenario, expressing his belief and desire for Conner as the bell cow back for the team, but even he has to see the handwriting on the wall.
It would be a sin to not use the talented stable of running backs at his disposal. Benny Snell showed the improved quickness and burst that we heard being reported out of training camp, filling in admirably for the once again injured Conner. Snell enjoyed the first one hundred game of his career against the Giants.
At the least, Snell has earned more touches moving forward this season, and the coaching staff has to be encouraged by the potential he has shown.
The good news is Conner’s ankle injury isn’t believed to be serious, more the nagging variety. Sound familiar.
Conner has some real competition for touches on a Steelers offense filled with talented skill position players. He either stays effective and on the field, or runs the real danger of being left behind.
Stock holding in limbo: Steelers offensive line
During the off season, I proclaimed the demise of the Steelers offensive line had been greatly exaggerated. I still feel that way, but I am admittedly concerned after Monday night’s game.
An offensive line has to be a close knit group, where chemistry and cohesion are invaluable elements for effectiveness. Trust and familiarity are key components.
Ramon Foster’s retirement was warranted, as he play had declined noticeably last season, but it inevitably impacted the offensive line brotherhood. The Steelers made the immediate decision to move proven performer Matt Feiler to fill the vacancy at left guard. I believe the decision was made with the ideology of staying strong up the middle because it is easier to provide help on the outside. The Steelers made the move early in camp to give the unit as much time as possible to gel. Zach Banner won a hard fought battle for the right tackle position. Tomlin expressed his confidence in the starting unit and the available depth. That depth is about to be severely tested.
Already playing with standout RG David Decastro, inactive due to a nagging knee injury, the line struggled early on in their first taste of live action. The line struggled to get push in the running game, long an issue for a group known more for their athleticism than their brute force, but the pass protection provided was subpar by their own standards.
Just when the offensive line was starting to find it’s rhythm, particularly in the running game, tragedy struck. One play after Stephen Wisniewski, Decastro’s replacement for the game, went down with a pectoral injury, Banner was lost for the season with a obvious ACL injury.
Now the Steelers have more questions than answers moving forward on the offensive line. While there are no easy answers at first glance, the Steelers have no choice but to make the most of a less than ideal situation. The proficiency of the Steelers coaching staff moving forward concerning these decisions may just make, or break, a Super Bowl caliber season.