The Pittsburgh Steelers have advanced to 6-0 for the first time since 1978. That team was the final 1970’s Super Bowl team for the Steelers. They didn’t play a complete game, but still walked off the field with a victory. Here are the players whose stock is on the move after week seven:
WR Diontae Johnson – Stock Up
Diontae Johnson is a fun player to watch. He seems to have a sixth sense of where a defender is and how to make them miss immediately after catching a ball. This gets him into trouble sometimes, as he has some drops that hit him right in the hands but at least part of that is Johnson getting a little ahead of himself. His change of direction is right up there with the heyday of Antonio Brown and he is breaking defenders ankles week after week.
Besides the ball security issues, Diontae Johnson has had some trouble staying on the field. He exited week seven against the Tennessee Titans with an ankle bruise, but not before tallying 9 receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Thankfully, Diontae shouldn’t miss any more time with his current injury according to Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference. The wide receiver group is so deep, and any one of them is a threat to go for 100 yards in any given game.
RT Chukwuma Okorafor – Stock Down
Chukwuma Okorafor has overall played well this season since taking over the starting right tackle position due to injury. Week seven was probably his worst game. Chuks was responsible for two penalties on the opening drive. The Steelers scored on their opening drive for the first time in 23 games, but Okorafor nearly single-handedly extended the streak another game.
A holding penalty on 2nd down changed what would have been a 3rd and 2 into a 2nd and 16. Later in the drive, on the one yard line, he had a facemask that wiped out a James Conner touchdown reception and backed the Steelers up to the 16. Either of these plays could have killed the drive, and both had little bearing on the outcome of the play. He has to play smarter than that.
S Terrell Edmunds – Stock Up
Terrell Edmunds is quietly one of the most steady contributors in the secondary this season. One of the more important drives in the game was the start of the 2nd half. The Titans were receiving and a score would have helped shift the momentum of the game tremendously. Edmunds took over on this drive with a run stuff for a gain of one yard and a pass break up on the very next play. The Steelers would get the ball back and kick a field goal to give them the score that ultimately won them the game.
Terrell Edmunds is the latest example of patience paying off after a slow start to his career.
KR/WR Ray-Ray McCloud – Stock Up
Another week, another game changing play for Ray-Ray McCloud. McCloud used the scouting report on the Titans punter to shift himself into position to receive the ball without wasted movement. After catching the punt he immediately juked the incoming defender and took the ball 57 yards to flip the field. He was one decision away from getting his first touchdown return as he cut left into the defender rather than cutting right to a wide open field.
McCloud has helped make this special teams unit an asset for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he is a big part of the field position battle that the Steelers look to win each week.
ILB Robert Spillane – Stock Up
Anyone who makes the kind of play that Robert Spillane made on the one yard line, on 3rd down, in the 4th quarter in a close game… they are going to find themselves on this list. Every time I watch that play I am more impressed with Spillane. He sacrificed his body to fill a wide open hole against Derrick Henry, one of the biggest backs in the game.
Beyond this play, Spillane showed out well for himself. He embodied the “next man up” philosophy and filled Devin Bush’s shoes without missing a beat. Sure, he will be tested in coverage throughout the rest of the season, but he isn’t a liability and has already shown that he is up to the task – even in the most trialing of situations. One thing that will endear him to the city is his full-speed-all-the-time mentality.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi – Stock Down
Ola Adeniyi didn’t have any glaringly bad plays that found him on this list, but it has more to do with the share of snap counts from week to week. Earlier in the season, Alex Highsmith and Ola Adeniyi were getting roughly the same number of snaps in relief of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, but the trend continues to skew more towards Highsmith. In week seven, Ola only logged three defensive snaps, while Highsmith logged eight.
This is Ola’s third season on the team, and to be losing a majority of his backup snaps to a rookie this early on is discouraging. He still plays well on special teams, and will continue to have a role there, but that is the beginning and end of his role on this team moving forward.