The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3 for the first time since 2013. Optimism has left town a long while ago but there is a chance it returns with a victory Monday. With last place in the AFC North at stake, the Steelers will take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Monday. Coming into Monday’s game, there are a few players catching fire but a lot of players who will need bounce back performances.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick – Stock Up
What a debut!
Seriously, Minkah Fitzpatrick showed exactly why the Steelers traded a first-round pick to acquire him as he recorded one interception and one forced fumble during Sunday’s contest against the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers have lacked a playmaker on the back end since Troy Polamalu retired and while it was only one game, it looks like Fitzpatrick could be that guy.
LB Mark Barron – Stock Down
What a disaster!
Mark Barron has not performed to expectations thus far but Sunday’s performance was just the icing on the cake for what has been a terrible three game start. Barron looked confused, out of place and downright lazy at times. Forget giving up the game winning touchdown or committing a penalty on the third down shortly before the 49ers’ game winning score, Barron’s effort, or lack of effort I should say was very concerning. On a young team that finds itself 0-3, Barron’s laziness is not the look this team wants from the man they have tasked with wearing the green dot on his helmet.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – Stock Up
JuJu Smith-Schuster has delivered a big play in back to back weeks for the Steelers’ offense and that is exactly what he is going to be required to do on a week by week basis. First it was a tough over the shoulder catch on a flea flicker that energized the Steelers against the Seahawks and last week it was a 76-yard catch and run that gave the Steelers their first touchdown of the afternoon. While many were concerned if Smith-Schuster could handle being the #1 receiver, he has been one of the few consistent players on this offense. Over the course of a 16-game season, Smith-Schuster is on pace for 75 catches and 1296 yards.
RB James Conner – Stock Down
Forget James Conner’s yards per carry or his success rate, he sees his stock drop simply for the fact that he fumbled at a costly time. While there is no good time to fumble, Conner has had a knack for turning the football over when it matters most. There was a costly fumble against the Cleveland Browns during week one of last season, a fumble against the Denver Broncos last season and last but not least, a fumble last Sunday against the 49ers. During the closing moments of a ball game, the number one responsibility of a running back is to hold onto the football and chew up clock. Conner has done neither and it is no surprise that the Steelers emerged without a victory in all three of the contests listed above.
LT Alejandro Villanueva – Stock Down
This really should be a knock against the entire offensive line as they were devoured by the 49ers’ defensive line all afternoon but there is no question that Alejandro Villanueva had the worst showing out of the front five. Villanueva struggled to handle 49ers’ rookie Nick Bosa as the 49ers’ rookie put the veteran left tackle on his backside more than once. The 49ers’ defensive line recorded 22 quarterback pressures with seven coming from Bosa. While the Steelers have one of the more talented offensive lines in the NFL, it surely did not look like it last Sunday.
DE Stephon Tuitt – Stock Up
Along with Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt, Stephon Tuitt was one of the few bright spots on defense. Tuitt notched another sack to his record as he currently sits at 3.5 sacks this season. He also had a nice stop on a shovel pass at the goal line. While the rest of the linebackers and secondary have received much criticism for their play, Tuitt and the defensive line have quietly put together a strong showing this season.