It sure has been a bummer of a week. The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped an absolute heartbreaker against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday and their playoff hopes now become a bit murkier. All the Steelers have to do is win their final two games and they will need the help of everyone listed below. For those coming off bad weeks, the Steelers will need them to improve and for those coming off a productive week, the Steelers will need them to keep that momentum rolling forward.
Coaching Staff – Stock Down
It is rare that the Steelers’ coaching staff gets outsmarted on both sides of the ball but that is exactly what happened last Sunday night. The Bills not only tore apart the Steelers’ zone defense but their pass rush confused the team’s offensive line for majority of the night as well. Though the Bills only had 130 passing yards, they made sure to make their shots count. John Brown’s early fourth down conversion and 40-yard reception on their game winning drive come to mind as well as Tyler Kroft’s touchdown grab. Devlin Hodges was also sacked a season high four times and was running for his life for most of the game as the offense failed to get into any rhythm aside from a few drives. The coaching staff will have a chance to erase last week’s blunder, so long as the Steelers win their last two games.
James Conner – Stock Up
James Conner returned from his shoulder injury and it did not take long to remember just how effective he could be when healthy. The third-year running back juked and barreled his way through the Bills’ defense for 51-yards on 12 touches and also scored a receiving touchdown. While he only received 12 touches, it is likely that Conner’s workload increases this Sunday as he gets another week under his belt. The Steelers are 0-4 this season when Conner touches the ball fewer than 18 times and 3-0 when he touches the ball 18 or more times.
Mark Barron – Stock Down
While it is impossible to truly know who was responsible for the Bills’ go-ahead touchdown, there is becoming a recurring pattern on these types of plays. Whenever there seems to be a busted coverage, linebacker Mark Barron is nearly always involved or near the general vicinity of the play. While his play working downhill has not been as scrutinized, Barron has been a target for teams taking their shots downfield.
Diontae Johnson – Stock Up
While the fumbles have been concerning, Diontae Johnson has been getting it done as a playmaker over the last two weeks. The rookie receiver has recorded 11 receptions for 122 yards along with two total touchdowns over the last two weeks. It has been an impressive rookie campaign for Johnson as his 47 receptions are tied for fourth among all rookies while his 545 receiving yards are eighth among all rookies.
Steven Nelson – Stock Down
It seems obvious now that the Bills thought they could get a real advantage with John Brown going up against Steven Nelson. Sunday was the first time this season that Nelson was targeted repeatedly and it all came to a head in the fourth quarter when Josh Allen connected with Brown on a 40-yard pass downfield with Nelson in coverage. This would be the catalyst to the Bill’s go-ahead touchdown, a lead that they would never squander. With last week’s game in the rear-view mirror, it will be important for Nelson to rebound over the last two games.
Cameron Heyward – Stock Up
Cameron Heyward was built for the bright lights as he had another dominant showing in a prime-time game last Sunday. The veteran defensive lineman had a season high nine tackles, one quarterback hit and one pass defense. The man who can do it all should be Heyward’s new nickname. He not only notched a pass defense and wrapped up Allen for a short gain as he was taking off but he also completely took over a drive inside the red zone to hold the Bills to a field goal. Another All-Pro season should be in play when it comes to Heyward’s contribution this year.
Devlin Hodges – Stock Down
Devlin Hodges had been playing unlike any other undrafted quarterback over the last two weeks but that all came to an end on Sunday night as he looked very much like an undrafted quarterback. Hodges threw four interceptions for only the second time in his NFL and NCAA career and sunk the Steelers’ offense. While he was named the starter for Sunday’s affair with the Jets, he will have to put this game behind him or the Steelers could possibly go back to an old friend in Mason Rudolph.