Welcome to the final stock report of the 2019 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a season full of promise, surprise and ultimately disappointment but that does not mean that it was a complete failure. There were many players that showed promise for next season but also a few players who left their 2020 future in serious doubt, both of which are covered below.
QB Mason Rudolph – Stock Even
It’s tough to make a call on Mason Rudolph’s season. At times, it looked like he was taking the necessary steps to progress as a quarterback but he also had a few frustrating showings, which could be expected from a first-time starter. One notion that is certain is that Rudolph dealt with more adversity in his first season as a starter than some players go through during an entire career. Considering all the dramatics involved his year and his last showing of the season going better than expected, Rudolph breaks even for this year.
RB James Conner – Stock Down
James Conner came into 2019 looking to build off his breakout 2018 campaign but like much of the Steelers’ season, that did not go as planned. Conner battled injuries all year long and missed six complete games while missing portions of at least three other contests. It was a disappointing year for the supposed lead running back as he finished the season with less than 500 yards rushing. In what could have been a year to solidify his role, Conner only left more doubt in the minds of many as it remains to be seen if he can handle the workload of being a top running back for a whole season.
WR James Washington – Stock Up
I shudder to think where this team would stand had it not been for James Washington taking a massive leap in year two of his career. After a disastrous rookie year, Washington was Pittsburgh’s most reliable receiver this year. He led the team in receiving yards with 735 yards and was the go-to guy in the vertical passing game. Putting up the numbers that he did with the likes of Rudolph and Devlin Hodges throwing him the football, one can only wonder how much Washington can grow from here should Ben Roethlisberger return fully healthy next season.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – Stock Down
From on the field to off the field, it is likely that no one had their year under more heavy scrutiny than JuJu Smith-Schuster. The young and youthful receiver was expected to take over for Antonio Brown but instead he managed to look like the third most impressive receiver over the course of this season. While Smith-Schuster started fairly decently, an injury just after midseason saw him lose ground to Washington and Diontae Johnson. His return from injury was then hijacked by drops and disappointment. It was a injury riddled and subpar year for the 23-year old receiver but hopefully the return of Roethlisberger can help Smith-Schuster return to his usual form.
TE Vance McDonald – Stock Down
Apparently, Vance McDonald caught 38 passes this season which seems more than many would think, considering he seemed largely invisible for majority of the season. While quarterback play weighed heavily into those numbers, it was still a massive down year for the Steelers’ tight end. After losing Jesse James last season, the Steelers counted on McDonald carrying the load as the lead tight end but he underwhelmed in that regard. His 7.2 yards per reception was a career worst and he also failed to play a full season for the seventh straight year. His role for 2020 is currently unclear as there is a possibility, he becomes a cap casualty this offseason.
DL Javon Hargrave – Stock Rising Fast
Boy, Javon Hargrave is going to be a very rich man in a couple months. The Steelers’ defensive tackle can win either with his quickness or just with sheer power and that is going to lure many suitors this offseason. While his numbers may have taken a step back from last season, Hargrave’s numbers do not tell the whole tale. He was simply dominant in the trenches this season and opened up pass rushing lanes for many of his teammates. If the Steelers lose him this offseason, it will be a huge loss to that defensive line.
OLB Bud Dupree – Stock Peaking
What a difference a year can make when it comes to Bud Dupree. A year ago, I was in the crowd that wanted to see an upgrade at outside linebacker over Dupree and now a year later, I want nothing more than to see him retained for another season and more. For the first time in his career, Dupree broke double digits in sacks, recording 11.5 sacks this season and he also recorded a career high in tackles for a loss and quarterback hits. Dupree will command big money if he hits the open market but hopefully the Steelers can stop that from happening. The Steelers stood by the fifth-year outside linebacker through all the criticisms that came during his first four years so it would be surprising if they allow him to walk now that he has finally proved them right.
S Terrell Edmunds – Stock Down
It was a painfully average season for second year safety Terrell Edmunds. While it was hoped that he would take another step in his second year, Edmunds’ progression stalled as he failed to make any real splash in the secondary. The Steelers led the NFL with 38 takeaways this season and Edmunds was not responsible for a single one of those 38. He did not grab an interception, force a fumble or even recover a fumble this season. He has now played 2005 defensive snaps in two years and has just one interception and one fumble recovery to show for it.
DE Tyson Alualu – Stock Up
Imagine the pressure of having to step in for defensive end having a career year. That is the exact scenario Tyson Alualu found himself in when Stephon Tuitt went down with a season ending injury earlier this season. Alualu being the complete professional he is did not flinch at the opportunity, instead he had a great season, recording 41 tackles and one sack. The Steelers did not miss a beat with Alualu playing full time snaps as he played better than anyone could have ever predicted.