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: WR Deon Cain
Stock Value: Up
He’s only been here for under two weeks, but he’s already made an impression. The 6’2” Deon Cain, a 2018 sixth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts, was last on their 53-man roster when they played the Steelers. Waived thereafter and moved to the practice squad, Pittsburgh plucked him and played him for 10 snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
And that is, potentially, just the beginning. With JuJu Smith-Schuster likely to remain inactive next week due to his knee injury, which continues to keep him from practicing, there will be another helmet at least for Cain, and his playing time should expand, not just because of the success that he found in-game, but because he has had more time to work.
In the game against the Bengals, he was only targeted twice, but both yielded positive results for the offense. On the first, he made a leaping grab over the defensive back for a 35-yard gain. That lone reception proved to be enough to be not only the second-longest reception of the afternoon, but also the second-most receiving yards for Pittsburgh.
His second target was not officially counted, but it resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty being called. That netted a total of 26 yards for the offense, and it showed how his size and speed can create a problem for defensive backs.
Cain’s direct competition for playing time is Tevin Jones—he has already seemingly passed Johnny Holton, who on Sunday was only used as the long decoy in one-receiver sets and on one play after James Washington ran a go ball and missed a snap.
Jones, on the other hand, played extensively, which is impressive, considering it was hardly noticeable. He was targeted three times, catching one pass, though it’s quite arguable that he could have had a touchdown from Mason Rudolph had the quarterback thrown a better pass in the red zone.
Still, Cain clearly offers more of a threat as a receiver in multiple ways than do either of the aforementioned. I believe the Steelers see that and are excited about the possibility of expanding his role as he earns the opportunities, on the field, in practice, and especially in the meeting room.