Somehow, someway, the Steelers have advanced to 11-0 on the season. This victory should have been a double digit blowout, but sloppy play made it one of the more frustrating games this season. With the injury to Bud Dupree and the various players that were forced to step up due to covid, there are several players with their stock on the move after week 12.
OLB Alex Highsmith – Stock Up
Alex Highsmith has had his stuck pointing up for most of the season so far, and now it pays of for him. He positioned himself nicely by getting the lion’s share of the backup snaps behind Bud Dupree and TJ Watt over Ola Adeniyi. Now, due to the unfortunate season ending injury to Bud Dupree, Alex Highsmith will presumably be the full time starter opposite TJ Watt.
So far, Highsmith has 20 total tackles with three tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception. He has also done well on special teams, but he will likely have a reduced role in that phase to limit his exposure as the new starter. He has graded out well this season from most sources, including a respectable 81.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in limited work.
WR Diontae Johnson – Stock Down
Just when everyone thought Diontae Johnson could be hitting his stride after an injury plagued start to the season, he came up with a lackluster performance. If the main crime of the offense on Wednesday was the drops, then Diontae Johnson was the prime suspect. Ball security has been a lingering question for Johnson’s young career, and he did nothing to help his case against the Ravens. Two drops and a forced fumble that luckily bounced out of bounds. Every time he has a good game, he turns right back around and plays below the line.
The talent is undeniable with Diontae Johnson, but so far the only thing he has been consistent at is being inconsistent, particularly with ball security.
OLB Ola Adeniyi – Stock Up
Ola Adeniyi gets a lift here for the same reason Alex Highsmith did. Highsmith was the primary backup to Dupree, while Adeniyi was the special teamer and reserve outside linebacker. Now, they both shift up, so Adeniyi will get 15 snaps or so per game in relief while Highsmith is the full time starter. Adeniyi has played very well on special teams this year with several tackles and a forced fumble splash play.
Mike Tomlin often says that big time contributions on special teams suggest the player can make contributions on defense in the future, so watch for Adeniyi’s role moving forward. Whether he is in just as relief to Highsmith or it turns into a committee, the opportunity is there.
WR James Washington – Stock Up
James Washington has now made big plays in big moments on multiple occasions this season. Perhaps none bigger than the 4th quarter 3rd down completion. It was 3rd and 6, and the Steelers were backed up on their own 17 yard line. Washington caught a floater thrown by Ben Roethlisberger in triple coverage. If you look at ESPN’s win probability chart for the game, the Steelers were at a solid 90% or more win probability for most of the 4th quarter. Following a 70 yard Marquise Brown touchdown, the Steelers chances were rapidly regressing back to a toss-up. That is, until James Washington put the game away and buried the Baltimore Ravens’ AFC North title hopes.
RB Benny Snell Jr. – Stock Up
Benny Snell has appeared on this list recently on the opposite end of things, but he ran hard on Wednesday afternoon against the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers offensive game plan didn’t get him involved much, but when his number was called he made some plays, ran hard through contact, and sealed the victory with some nice runs towards the end. He had 60 yards rushing on 16 carries and added another 33 yards on 3 receptions. Mike Tomlin even praised the “individual efforts of Benny Snell” in his post game presser that was mostly negative in tone.
CB Cameron Sutton – Stock Down
He has been in the “stock up” column for a few weeks, but failed to see the field much in an important AFC matchup. He only registered 11 snaps to Mike Hilton’s 29. Last week, it was completely opposite as Hilton has just returned from injury. This suggested that the two would play a fairly even snap count moving forward, but in a key rivalry matchup Sutton barely saw the field.
Even worse, when he did see the field he did not play well, headlined by a bad missed tackle. Pro Football Focus had him graded out near the bottom of the defense in his limited snaps with a 52.2 overall grade.