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: OLB Tuzar Skipper
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The same line of logic applies here as it has to the recent entries in this series. Thanks to the shortened offseason, positions in which rookies were drafted will see veteran players benefit because of the newcomers’ lack of experience and preparation time.
That applies even to Tuzar Skipper, who is going into just this second year and has never been active for a regular season game with the Steelers. In fact, for most of the regular season, he was with the New York Giants after they claimed him off waivers at the start of the year.
Originally signed after a tryout at rookie minicamp coming out of Toledo, he had a strong offseason that culminated in an impressive preseason campaign that saw him lead the league with five sacks, two of them being strip sacks.
It was enough to earn him a spot on the initial 53-man roster, but he was released before the opener with the intention of moving him to the practice squad. The planning of holding on to him initially didn’t work, because New York claimed him anyway.
He did get some playing time there, which can only benefit him as he heads into his second season. But even if he didn’t spent most of the Autumn in Pittsburgh, he still benefitted from all of the coaching of the offseason and familiarizing himself with the defense both on the practice field and in the classroom.
Alex Highsmith has been able to get into the virtual classroom, but even that is not quite the same, and of course he hasn’t gotten on the field with the team at all, even if he has worked out with some of his teammates with an outside trainer.
One of Highsmith’s roles this year should be special teams, but if he doesn’t have a preseason, that may be too much to ask. That will increase the likelihood of Skipper retaining a roster spot as a fifth outside linebacker, which is a position that is always vulnerable to being sacrificed for another elsewhere on the roster.