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: DT Javon Hargrave
Stock Value: Up
The Steelers could have had possibly the best defensive line in all of football this year had Stephon Tuitt remained healthy. Instead, he was lost early in the sixth game of the year as he was off to the best start of his career, leaving the team with just a very good defensive line.
Tuitt’s absence has been jointly filled by the services of Tyson Alualu and Javon Hargrave, the fourth-year defensive tackle who is looking to cash in during unrestricted free agency in 2020. The game that he had against the newly-extended J.C. Tretter and the Cleveland Browns will certainly help him get paid.
Along with three tackles, Hargrave was able to record his fourth sack of the season against the Browns. He also recorded the initial pressure that led to another defensive sack, which if memory serves ended up being split between Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward.
While Heyward has been the rock for that defensive line group, of course, and is potentially looking at a third straight Pro Bowl appearance—he’s had seven or more sacks in three consecutive seasons now—the 2016 third-round pick has been a very important cog in his machine as well.
In all, Hargrave now has 45 tackles on the season, four off of what was clearly a career-high last season of 49, and he already has the most tackles for loss in a single season. He also forced the second fumble of his career, and is up to four sacks. That’s two and a half behind where he finished a year ago, but twice as much as he had in either of his first two seasons.
He has consistently proven to be a nuisance for interior offensive linemen with impressive handwork and explosiveness, a handful despite not being overly big. He is a stout run defender who doesn’t get enough credit for his work in that area as well. It would be a shame to lose him, but with the salary cap, it will be hard to avoid.