The Pittsburgh Steelers delivered a beatdown to the Cleveland Browns in their first AFC North matchup of the 2020 season. When the score is 38-7, there aren’t going to be many players with their stock pointing down, so this article won’t follow the usual “three up, three down” theme I try to stick to. Here are the players that have their stock on the move following week six:
WR Chase Claypool – Stock Up
Until Chase Claypool cools down on this absurd tear he is on as a rookie, he will be a mainstay on the stock report. He had a rushing touchdown on a jet sweep to the left side of the field, making him one of only two receivers with multiple rushing touchdowns so far in 2020. He almost reached across the goal line for another receiving touchdown on what would have been an unsuccessful play if not for him shaking two defenders with some tricky footwork. His best play of the day came on a deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger for a 36 yard reception. The ball looked overthrown, but Claypool was able to get under it and flash his hands late to fool the defender and secure the catch.
Claypool joins Calvin Ridley, Martavis Bryant, Randy Moss, and Willie Gault as the only 5 receivers in league history to have at least 300 yards receiving and six total touchdowns in their first five games per Daniel Valente of The Score. Pretty good company to keep for the rookie.
LT Alejandro Villanueva – Stock Up
Alejandro Villanueva has been one of the unsung heroes of the Steelers this season. While decidedly average as a run blocker, Villanueva has been lights out in the pass blocking game allowing zero sacks on the season per sack breakdowns from our very own Alex Kozora. Protecting the blindside isn’t always the easiest job, especially given the level of competition you often find yourself up against, but Villanueva has consistently done enough to keep Ben Roethlisberger clean.
He was able to keep Ben upright against one of the leading defensive player of the year candidates in Myles Garrett. Garrett did get a sack, but not against Villanueva. Pro Football Focus gave him a very respectable 75.3 pass blocking grade in week six, averaging his season pass blocking grade to 77.9. On an offensive line that has had injuries, retirements, and position changes disrupt the continuity, Villanueva has been a steady presence at left tackle.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick – Stock Up
Minkah Fitzpatrick was on this list last week with his stock pointing down citing poor tackling and a lack of splash plays. He had a pick six and did not miss a tackle. He made me immediately eat my words from last week as the interception came on the Browns first third down attempt of the day early in the first quarter.
Minkah was graded out as “elite” in this performance, getting a 94 overall grade from Pro Football Focus – one of the best grades around the NFL in week six. Teams are still avoiding him, but he took advantage of trap coverage to bait Baker Mayfield into an interception.
RB James Conner – Stock Up
James Conner was able to get into a rhythm early in week six against a Browns defense that had been stingy against the run so far this season. He forced seven missed tackles in total per Josh Carney’s missed tackle report. Four of those came on the opening drive of the game to give the Steelers the 3-0 lead that they never relinquished.
James Conner rushed for over 100 yards for the third time this season and he didn’t even finish out the game as the Steelers had secured the victory late in the 3rd quarter. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and found the end zone once in a goal-to-go short touchdown run. There were several situations where Conner should have been tackled at or near the line of scrimmage, but his footwork and vision turned the play into a successful run.
ILB Robert Spillane – Stock Up
Robert Spillane has been a solid special teamer so far in the 2020 season, but his number was called when Devin Bush went down with a season ending ACL injury. He carried in the green dot to not only fill the role of inside linebacker, but also to be the central communicator of the defense. The defense didn’t miss a beat as there were no obvious communication errors the rest of the game.
Spillane racked up six tackles including a tackle for loss and he delivered two large hits to opposing ball carriers making his presence known on the field. Mike Tomlin said he “more than answered the bell” in the postgame press conference. Many would have thought Ulysees Gilbert III would be the next man up at ILB entering the season, but Spillane’s excellent special team play has now afforded him his first NFL start on Sunday against the Titans.
Anthony McFarland Jr. – Stock Down
Anthony McFarland didn’t get that many opportunities until the game was well out of hand, but he left Ben Roethlisberger out to dry on an intended draw play that forced Ben Roethlisberger to tuck and run up the middle for four yards. Between that and Ray-Ray McCloud’s emergence as a speedy offensive weapon in this offense, McFarland’s stock takes a slight hit moving into week seven. The lack of any role on special teams does not help his case, either.