The Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff chances dropped a bit more after last weekend’s loss to the New York Jets. The Steelers are limping to the finish, both figuratively and literally as the team has dropped two in a row and has suffered through an abundance of injuries. The 2019 season has been full of extreme highs and extreme lows and this week’s stock report will reflect that. There are a few players that have shined bright and a few players that have had to live through a nightmare this season.
RB James Conner – Stock Down
James Conner has suited up for 10 games this season, though he has barely been able to finish some of those games due to injury. In what seems to be a never ending merry go round of injuries, Conner left last Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with another injury, this time suffering a bruised thigh. It was the ninth time this season that Conner has been unable to record more than 16 carries in a game. It has been a tough year for the third-year running back as injuries have decimated Conner this season.
WR Diontae Johnson – Stock Up
Wait, Diontae Johnson is a rookie? I sure have not been able to tell. Johnson has become the Steelers’ most reliable receiver over the last stretch, catching 19 of his 24 targets over his last three games. With 55 catches this season, the Steelers’ rookie receiver needs only seven more receptions to break the team’s franchise record for most receptions in a season by a rookie. Regardless if he accomplishes this feat or not, make sure to tip your hat to the former Toledo receiver as he has stepped up big despite the all the ongoing issues with the Steelers’ offense.
Entire Offensive Line – Stock Down
It would be too difficult to pick just one, so the entire unit makes it on to the list in this week’s stock report. The Steelers’ offensive line struggled once again last week, allowing four sacks and numerous pressures. While some of the sacks can undoubtedly be blamed on the inexperience quarterbacks operating in the pocket, there were a few breakdowns within the offensive line last Sunday. The Jets’ really did a great job confusing the Steelers’ line by disguising their pressure. It has been a rough stretch for this unit and it may get rougher with the Ravens up next.
DE Cameron Heyward – Stock Up
Sources say that if one were to google the word consistency on Google, Cameron Heyward’s face would show up. Enough with the joking though because Heyward’s year has been anything but a joke. He’s captained and commanded the front lines and has done a great job, especially considering that he has been missing his side kick in Stephon Tuitt. Heyward has not only set a new career high in tackles but he has also managed to record his fifth season with seven sacks or more. The veteran defensive lineman only trails Jason Gildon and Joey Porter who have six seasons with seven sacks or more. That is some good company to be in.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – Stock Down
Most of what I wrote about Conner could essentially be copied and pasted for JuJu Smith-Schuster. After a historic second season, Smith-Schuster has had a season from hell this year. Injuries, inconsistent quarterback play and a few drops have made this season a living nightmare for the third-year receiver. His season got even worse last Sunday as Smith-Schuster had an early drop and then had the last pass of the game slip through his hands. No one on this offense has suffered more from the loss of Ben Roethlisberger than the 23-year old receiver.
OLB T.J. Watt – Stock Up
After rewarding the Steelers with gifts all year, the Steelers decided to give Watt an enormous gift for Christmas – Team MVP. Watt is the first defensive player to win Team MVP since Troy Polamalu won it in 2010. Polamalu also won AP Defensive Player of the Year that season and hopefully Watt is on the same path. The third year pass rusher is one of just three players in NFL history to record at least 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions in a season. In a historic season, it would only make sense for the NFL to give Watt one of their more historic honors.