With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.
The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.
Player: Javon Hargrave, NT
Ordinarily, I would kickstart discussion of the defensive side of the ball with Cameron Heyward, the rock of the unit, but I already talked about him earlier today. I could start from left to right, but I don’t want to begin with Stephon Tuitt, who has missed most of the season.
So that plants us in the heart of the defensive line, with second-year nose tackle Javon Hargrave. I’m hoping that nobody has soured on his play because he hasn’t been getting a sack every week, as it might have looked like he would early on in the year, because he has continued to play well for this team.
Who would have thought that a somewhat undersized small-school product, and the lowest-drafted player of the three, would be the most plug-and-play of the Steelers’ rookie defensive starters from a year ago?
But that is very much what he has been so far, and in fact he has been making a real impact in spite of the fact that his level of participation has waxed and waned based on the flow of the game and the offensive personnel that the Steelers’ opponents have run.
Hargrave recorded 27 tackles in 15 games as a rookie. He already has 21 this season, and 10 of them came in just one game. He has consistently demonstrated the ability to win one-on-one matchups, and that has been the key to him doing well both against the run and the pass.
He recorded two sacks within the first three weeks of the season, and even though he has yet to record another one over the course of the past five games, the pressure has been there, pretty consistently, and you know that more is coming.
Considering the fact that he has not even hit 40 snaps in a game this year—five times seeing fewer than 30 snaps—I think his level of productivity is quite impressive. Hargrave has a bright future ahead of him, even with Heyward and Tuitt still being there to dominate the playing time.