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
Deon Cain has barely a couple dozens snaps to his name in his first two weeks in Pittsburgh, but he also appears to be emerging as perhaps the number three option while JuJu Smith-Schuster remains out, behind James Washington and Diontae Johnson.
Cain, acquired via the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad shortly following the first game against the Cleveland Browns, in which both Smith-Schuster and Johnson were injured, has been targeted four times over the past two games. He has recorded two catches for first downs, including a 35-yard catch, and drawn two defensive pass interference penalties, one for 26 yards and the other in the end zone on third down, setting up first and goal from the one.
Basically, something good has happened 100 percent of the time they have thrown it to the second-year former sixth-round pick. He’s got size, he’s got speed, and he’s got a lot of raw, too. But the Steelers are bringing him along in baby steps, and so far it’s been a positive experience.
As he told reporters recently, both himself and fellow newcomer Kerrith Whyte are beginning to feel at home in the Steelers locker room as their teammates have embraced them, and they are picking up the offense more and more with each passing week.
That means they will be eligible for more playing time going forward. Cain saw an increase in snaps from the first game to the second, and we should expect similar for as long as Smith-Schuster remains out. Johnny Holton has nearly become irrelevant, largely only used as the deep threat in run formations, and Tevin Jones only logged about as many snaps as Cain last week.
It’s easy to get excited about a fresh unknown that has had a couple of positive impressions, though. There’s a reason he was a sixth-round pick, and there’s a reason the Colts were willing to risk losing him. Can the Steelers bring out his full potential, or at least get enough out of him for him to be a meaningful contributor for the rest of this season?