Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: CB Steven Nelson
Stock Value: Up
A lot of people were skeptical about the Steelers’ signing of fifth-year cornerback Steven Nelson this offseason, their biggest big-ticket item during the free agency period in the franchise’s history. They signed Nelson to a three-year contract worth $25.5 million from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Though he came down with four interceptions in his one full season playing on the outside a year ago, he was heavily targeted throughout the year, and also gave up his share of big plays. He had some penalty issues to boot, but he clearly showed potential.
Through two games so far in Pittsburgh, however, he has been close to rock solid. He was hardly even tested on the season opener against the New England Patriots, but Russell Wilson was not shy about going after him in coverage against the big, physical rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf.
Metcalf did have a big touchdown catch, but that came off of a coverage shift that had him against Terrell Edmunds. When Nelson was on him, it was hard for him to get much of anything done. He officially finished the game with seven tackles and one pass defensed, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
Wilson did get one pass to Metcalf early in the game for 16 yards around midfield, playing a soft coverage, but that was about it. On the deep pass play on which he recorded a pass defensed, he even drew an offensive pass interference penalty. That ended up not counting as a result, so he had to get another one several plays later.
There is a ton of negativity around the Steelers right now over the course of the first two weeks of the season, the natural after effect of losing your first two games and having lost your franchise quarterback for the remainder of the year.
At the very least, however, Nelson has been a bright spot, and it’s worth remembering that he is under contract for 46 more games. He’s off to a good start. If he can continue that, and add some splash to boot, then this secondary can be something.