Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: CB Steven Nelson
Stock Value: Up
Pro Football Focus recently named Steven Nelson the Steelers’ most underrated player. That’s not why his stock is up, however, even if that served as the impetus for me writing about him. His stock is up simply because it is. He is coming off of a very strong first season in Pittsburgh, and he should only fare even better in 2020.
Coming over from the Kansas City Chiefs last year as an unrestricted free agent, Nelson immediately helped to solidify a secondary that was in great need of solidification for some time. The later acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick was the final piece of the puzzle.
Having both Nelson and Fitzpatrick in the system for a full offseason, and with a season now under their belts, should only help improve things. One thing that Fitzpatrick talked about recently was that, while the team’s execution level was high, there were some issues with adjustments and reacting to the audibles and motions of the offense.
He said that he believes the Steelers will be better equipped to handle that this year, because they will have all gone through it together, and they are making it a priority this offseason. Nelson is a part of that. While his role isn’t central to this, even he was a part of some communications flaws. A failure to communicate with Terrell Edmunds led to a big play for Odell Beckham, for example, leaving him in on-on-one coverage when he was expecting help.
The 2018 season was his first as a full-time starter on the outside. He was heavily targeted, and thus gave up his share of receptions and even big plays. He tightened things up a lot last season and was targeted less frequently. Expect him to find yet another level in his play for the 2020 season as he makes his case for being among the most underrated defensive backs in the NFL.