The Steelers secured a come-from-behind victory in week three against the Texans. Here is a look at whose stock is on the move heading into week four:
RT Chukwuma Okorafor – Stock Up
Chuks Okorafor had the unenviable task of facing a perennial all-pro and former defensive player of the year, JJ Watt for much of Sunday. On 38 pass blocking attempts, Okorafor matched up against Watt 28 times. This is a mismatch on paper for a player that came into the season as a backup, but Watt was held to zero sacks and zero QB hits. A complete shutout. Just one sack allowed would have been considered a success to me, but not even a hit? You have to take your hat off to Chuks for this effort.
Chuks is seizing his moment as the next man up and passed his first big test with flying colors.
CB Steven Nelson – Stock Down
Steven Nelson was a revelation for this team a year ago, helping turn the secondary into a league leading unit. He didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage despite being targeted with relative frequency. This season, he has allowed two touchdowns in three weeks. The one against the Texans was a big moment in the game as the Steelers had just gained momentum for the first time and the Texans were able to take it right back going into the half. He was in good position to make a play, but didn’t make any attempt at the ball.
The secondary as a whole has been struggling in the early portion of the season, and Nelson has been picked on being targeted 16 times, allowing 11 receptions. It should also be noted that his contract is back-heavy and gets more expensive with each passing year, so its important that he gets back on track.
RB James Conner – Stock Up
James Conner accrued his 2nd 100 yard game of the season in week three, fighting back from a minor ankle injury in week one and continued his success on the ground. The coaching staff has clearly committed to James Conner as the starter and trust in his ability when healthy. So far, its paying off.
He rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries (6.1 ypc) with a touchdown and showed his ability to help close out a game down the stretch. James Conner’s stock has officially recovered after a rocky opening and the arrow is pointing up.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick – Stock Even
Minkah Fitzpatrick is one that entered the season with his stock arrow pointing straight up. He was coming off of an all-pro season, but now has the benefit of experience in the system. The reality of the 2020 season so far is he has failed to make much of an impact at all through three games. Teams are generally avoiding him, with only 4 targets his way, but he has allowed 3 receptions in his limited opportunities. For what its worth, Pro Football Focus has him graded out as a 51.2. Last season there were interceptions, forced fumbles, and open field tackles in key moments, all of which are missing so far in 2020. His stock isn’t pointing down yet, but another game or two without some splash plays, and his high flying stock might be on the decline.
TE Eric Ebron – Stock Up
Eric Ebron hasn’t been as productive as some may have thought prior to the season, but he is developing a nice rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. Ben isn’t throwing a ball into tight coverage to someone he doesn’t trust, and that is just what he did against the Texans. Ebron had nice hand fighting as the ball entered the end zone to create just enough separation and then he put the defender in a tough spot by putting his hands up at the last possible second to catch the touchdown. Safety, AJ Moore Jr. was forced to guess, or risk the pass interference.
This is the kind of play that will build confidence between he and Roethlisberger and earn him more reps as the season goes along, particularly in the red zone.
RB Anthony McFarland Jr. – Stock Up
Anthony McFarland Jr. got his second gameday helmet of the season in week 3, and had his first touches of the season, showing some playmaking ability along the way. McFarland had 7 total touches for 42 total yards, averaging 7.0 ypc in the rushing game. Mike Tomlin said, “He has merited more playing time.” The only real negative coming from his play on Sunday was the 3rd and short failed conversion, but he probably shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place. His speed is evident when he gets the ball, and with an increased workload he is bound to break an explosive play or two throughout the season.