WR Antonio Brown – Stock Down
Let’s just get this one out of the way now. Antonio Brown had another spectacular season on the field, for the sixth consecutive year Brown recorded at least 100 receptions and 1200 yards while leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns. Brown’s off field antics have been nothing short of a disaster though. A sideline outburst, a lawsuit for allegedly tossing furniture off his apartment’s balcony, a speeding violation and the straw that broke the camel’s back (or Mike Tomlin’s back) – a Week 17 benching due to a tirade at practice which has led to a firestorm of drama pointed at Brown’s direction. The situation has brought rumors of a trade request. Heading into the 2019 offseason, the Steelers are going to have to find a way to reduce Brown’s outbursts while still maximizing the dwindling years of this team’s Super Bowl window.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – Stock Up
The Steelers’ 2017 draft class is looking to be a home run, thanks in large part to JuJu Smith Schuster’s evolution into an established star receiver. In his sophomore season, Smith-Schuster stepped up, grabbed the brass ring and then ran it with to the tune of 111 receptions for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns. The young wide receiver broke 100 receiving yards in eight of his 16 games this season as him and Brown created arguably the league’s top receiving duo. There is no ceiling in sight when it comes to Smith-Schuster, who is still just 22-years old.
OLB T.J. Watt – Stock Up
Speaking of the 2017 draft class being a homerun, it would be an injustice to not mention T.J. Watt. The former first round pick also had a breakout sophomore year as he increased his sack totals from 7 to 13 this season. The 24-year old outside linebacker had many uncertainties shouted his way about his “unsustainable” sack numbers earlier in the year but he was quick to silence his critics with an impressing showing down the stretch. Watt recorded one sack in each of the Steelers’ last three games. Since the turn of the decade, only six other players in the NFL have recorded more sacks than Watt during their first two seasons in the big leagues.
OLB Bud Dupree – Stock Down
Bud Dupree is the embodiment of a toxic relationship. Year after year, Dupree struggles to deliver the production that comes with being a former first round pick and year after year, the Steelers convince themselves that Dupree will change. Well, time has finally run out as an immediate decision on Dupree’s fifth year option will be required before the new year begins in March and it is almost a certainty that the Steelers will not keep the linebacker on the roster long enough to see his option money. To quote Dennis Green, Dupree is who we thought he was. He is an outside linebacker capable of providing four to six sacks per season, he is definitely not an outside linebacker worthy of making $9.2 million.
RB James Conner – Stock Up
Boy, that 2017 draft class may have produced not one, not two but three great starters for the Steelers. James Conner perhaps had the biggest contribution to this year’s team as his play and production made the absence of Le’Veon Bell a mere footnote on the season. Bell’s absence caused hysteria early in the season but it became apparent that the Steelers were not going to miss a beat with Conner who rushed for 973 yards and added 497 receiving yards in 13 games. From being a temporary placeholder for Bell, Conner proved to be much more by not only running the football constantly into the end zone but by also running Bell out of town.
TE Vance McDonald – Stock Up
Vance McDonald started a career high 14 games as he was able to stay healthy for majority of the season. His clean bill of health brought career highs in receptions, receiving yards and catch percentage.
CB Artie Burns – Stock Down
Instead of taking a step forward, Artie Burns took five steps backward, tripped on his own feet and then fell off a cliff in 2018. From being a lock to start opposite Joe Haden, Burns has become an afterthought and 2019 will be his final season to prove his worth.
CB Joe Haden – Stock Up
One of the scariest thoughts I have encountered during the course of this season is imagining the Steelers’ secondary without Joe Haden. The veteran cornerback was the secondary’s only consistent performer (minus a few errors) and his game saving interception against the Patriots will be immortalized forever.
K Chris Boswell – Stock Down
Chris Boswell’s play definitely slipped this season, as the kicker missed a grand total of 12 kicks. Boswell’s biggest high of the 2018 season was his touchdown pass against the Broncos, which is hard to remember as the nightmares of his slip-up in Oakland and numerous missed field goals continue to cloud our memories.
OT Matt Feiler – Stock Up
Matt Feiler worked his way up the ladder and became the team’s starting right tackle after Marcus Gilbert’s injury. Feiler played better than anyone could have predicted and his play will likely lead to the release of Gilbert.