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: Even
It’s too bad that the game in which Steven Nelson finally got himself an interception wasn’t also one of his better ones. The fifth-year cornerback gave up some plays against the Buffalo Bills that he had not been for most of the season, including a key 40-yard reception to John Brown—also flagged for defensive pass interference on the play—that sparked the visiting team’s game-winning touchdown.
That was one of his lowlights of the season, but all things considered, if that’s toward the very bottom of all of his reps this season, he’s had a pretty good year. And now he finally has an interception to put his name to after recording four in 2018, his final year with the Kansas City Chiefs before signing with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent.
Overall, there were enough plays in which he was involved positively and negatively that I couldn’t comfortably say that it either raised or lowered his stock. Up to this point, his reason had been more even-keeled, but in the Buffalo game, some volatility and fluctuation was introduced into the equation.
In recent weeks, head coach Mike Tomlin had been praising his tandem of experienced veteran cornerbacks as being ‘high-floor’ professionals, using words like solid, consistent, and steady to describe the attributes they have brought to the secondary.
The Bills’ speedy and shifty receivers got behind the defense a bit more often than they do typically on any given week. Some of that came on isolation plays where, for example, Nelson was left in one-on-one coverage, as was the case on the aforementioned Brown score. Others were in zone or mixed coverages in which clear assignment of blame is not possible.
Nelson was known to be a more volatile player last season during his first full year as a starter on the outside. He made plays, but he also gave them up. He had not been giving up very many at all this year, however. This one game doesn’t change that, but it does merit a mention and perhaps monitoring going forward.