With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Javon Hargrave, DT
Considering that he already has three sacks in the Steelers’ first six games, there really hasn’t been a lot of talk about third-year defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who also has 16 tackles on the season to date. He is on pace for a career-high in tackles, and has already surpassed his previous career-high in sacks.
The truth is, though, that he has actually been lacking as a pass rusher. Outside of his three sacks, he has not had his usual success in generating semi-consistent pressure on the quarterback. The good news, heading into the second half of the season, is that he is also coming off of his best game of the year as a pass-rusher. In addition to his third sack, he also notched a couple of other pressures on Andy Dalton and an admittedly porous interior offensive line.
Also of note is that he is currently on pace for a career-low in snaps, however, which does partially but not totally explain his rather pedestrian pressure numbers. He has played just 130 snaps so far (74 of them rushing the passer) in comparison to 478 last year, and well over 600 during his rookie season.
Hargrave is only averaging about 22 snaps per game, which puts him on pace to log only about 350 snaps this year. That could change, however, if injuries should arise, as they did in each of his first two seasons. Cameron Heyward ended up on injured reserve in 2016, and Stephon Tuitt was injured on the second snap of the 2017 season.
He is playing the run as well as he ever has. Of his 16 tackles, nine have been against the run and registering stops. That includes three of his four tackles of Joe Mixon in the team’s last game. He registered a tackle for loss the previous week against Devonta Freeman.