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
I had hardly even heard of Deon Cain a month ago, truth be told. Fast forward through the past three games, and now I’m writing about him on a weekly basis. While he is not exactly a major contributor, he has been making multiple positive plays every game.
In each of the past three contests, he has had one official target, and one unofficial target negated by penalty. He has caught each of his three official targets, all three either explosive plays or at least going for a first down, and each of his three unofficial targets have drawn a defensive pass interference penalty.
That’s six targets and six positive outcomes in targeting the second-year wide receiver out of Clemson. A former sixth-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts, he spent his rookie year on the Reserve/Injured List. He was on the 53-man roster this year up until after the game against the Steelers, where he’d fallen out of play. He caught four passes by then for 50-something yards.
He’s nearly duplicated that production since joining the Steelers, and it seems likely that his role will continue to expand with each passing week, at least relative to Tevin Jones. Cain has been seeing a larger share of the snaps with each passing game.
If JuJu Smith-Schuster is back for Sunday’s game, however, then we have to consider the possibility of Cain not even dressing, since Jones and Johnny Holton are valued contributors on special teams. That would be unfortunate, but not inevitable. The Steelers do genuinely seem to like him and want to see him as a part of the offense.
For now, he’s been effective as a rotational number three receiver, and that’s more than good enough under the circumstances under which he was brought to the show. How much will he play against the Buffalo Bills, if at all? That’s the next step.