Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: DL Cameron Heyward
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After being unable to finish Sunday’s game with a knee injury and prompting concerns about his health, Cameron Heyward was a full participant in what was admittedly a light practice on Wednesday, seemingly putting him on track to play against the Dallas Cowboys.
The above pretty much says it all, but the bottom line here is that Heyward clearly avoided a major injury, which is a much different headspace than where many were in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s win against the Baltimore Ravens, as fans were concerned about the health of the defensive line.
The fact that Heyward appears to be okay is also a bigger deal right now because of the fact that Tyson Alualu is banged up at the moment and will likely miss some time. Losing both of them would place major stress on the Steelers’ defensive line depth, with only Stephon Tuitt even approximating a proven commodity.
Behind Tuitt would be just Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and Carlos Davis. Buggs is a second-year player who was a healthy scratch as recently as two weeks ago. Mondeaux was called up from the practice squad and made his NFL debut two weeks ago. Davis is a rookie seventh-round pick who has never dressed for a game.
Of course, this wouldn’t have been quite as big of a concern had Chris Wormley not suffered an injury the week before that landed him on injured reserve. While that doesn’t appear to be a season-ending injury, it was serious enough that the Steelers felt he would miss at least the three games he would be required to sit out with that move.
While Heyward has not been blowing things up statistically this season—right now he’s only projected to finish the season with 53 tackles, seven for loss, and three sacks—he has been generating pressure, as attested to by his eight quarterback hits. It’s just that Tuitt has happened to be better this year, and that’s a very fine ‘problem’ to have.