Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Javon Hargrave
Stock Value: Up
I guess it probably makes sense to talk about third-year defensive tackle Javon Hargrave right about now. He recently confirmed that he indeed spent the past several weeks of the season nursing a back injury that affected him on the field. as I noted in an article yesterday, he had just four tackles total over his last four games.
While it’s great that he’s back to full health—apparently, he and Stephon Tuitt ironically are the only ones of the main defensive linemen from last season healthy enough to practice full-time right now—the fact that he could be in store for a bigger role this season is really why I have his stock going up.
As I talked about yesterday, Hargrave told reporters that it is his belief that the Steelers, under new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, are going to make much greater use of a rotation this season than they have since he has been on the team, and he will be a part of that rotation.
The Steelers’ primary defensive package now is the nickel, which features two down linemen. The agile defensive tackle is more than capable of fulfilling that role. He is a far cry from the prototypical 350-pound nose tackle, anyway.
Cameron Heyward and Tuitt need more snaps off over the course of games, and they have two quality players in Hargrave and Tyson Alualu who can more than handle that job. Hargrave can be used as a penetrating tackle, while Alualu is more proficient against the run, though he did have four sacks a season ago—a career high.
Another feather in Hargrave’s cap is the fact that he says he is taking better care of his body, including what he puts into it. He said that he weighs the same as he ever has in the NFL, which is just north of 300 pounds, but he said that that weight is more muscle now.
He is gunning for more sacks this season. He has had two in each of his first two seasons, but he looked to be in for a big year in 2017 after registering his two in the first three games.