The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their third game in a row, their only three of the season. This time, to the Cincinnati Bengals in disappointing fashion in front of yet another national audience. The Steelers offense hit its lowest point of the season after a several game stretch of a noticeable decline from the beginning of the season. Meanwhile on defense, the injuries are starting to catch up, particularly at inside linebacker where an already thin group suffered two more in-game injuries.
Here is the week 15 Steelers stock report:
RB Benny Snell – Stock Up
Benny Snell was one of the lone bright spots on this Pittsburgh Steelers offense in week 15. He resurrected at least a remote hope that the running game could take a step from being a non-factor to a complimentary piece of the offense. Snell amassed 84 yards on 18 carries for a 4.7 average and a touchdown. He also got another 23 yards on 3 receptions in the passing game.
The few times it was utilized, Benny Snell slipping out of the backfield for the dump off pass worked extremely well, and its something the Steelers need to explore doing more with their running backs. Mike Tomlin said in his Tuesday press conference that Benny Snell will have a chance to be impactful regardless of if James Conner returns next week from his quadriceps injury. This is a sign that the Steelers are willing to ride the hot hand in an effort to jump start the running game.
LT Alejandro Villanueva – Stock Down
Alejandro Villanueva has had a polarizing season to many. Up until week 15, he had not allowed a sack which is a pretty impressive feat. He hasn’t really been a factor in the running game at all, but his pass protection still made him a valuable piece. Unfortunately in week 15 he was abused in both phases of the offense, getting a career low 33.3 game grade by Pro Football Focus (PFF), including a shockingly low 22.2 pass blocking grade.
To pitch in on all the trouble, Villanueva was also called for a hold that offset against the Mackensie Alexander taunting penalty that would have given the Steelers a fresh set of downs. Instead, they failed on their 3rd down re-do and were forced to punt.
OG/C J.C. Hassenauer – Stock Down
J.C. Hassenauer has gotten a lot more playing time than anybody would have hoped, but injuries have forced the offensive line into a tough position.
Small sample size, I know, but YPC and run success rate with JC Hassenauer vs Derwin Gray at LG. #Steelers
Hassenauer: 2.5 YPC, 46.7% run success rate
Gray: 8.3 YPC, 50% run success rate
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 23, 2020
The stats listed off by Alex from week 15 in the tweet above, along with the performances in past weeks pretty plainly illustrates that Hassenauer is not cut out for any kind of starting role in the NFL. Derwin Gray and Kevin Dotson should get the looks moving forward.
ILB Avery Williamson – Stock Up
Avery Williamson has been exactly what the Steelers hoped for when they traded for him near the trade deadline. He is a great tackler, good in the run game, and serviceable in pass coverage. Even better, he has been able to wear the green dot for calling plays from the sideline to be the key communicator for the defense even though he just recently joined the team. Now that Vince Williams is returning from the Reserve/COVID list, the running defense should immediately improve with any semblance of continuity at the position.
Williamson is no Devin Bush, but he is a Godsend given the injury situation at the position in 2020.
DE Stephon Tuitt – Stock Down
Stephon Tuitt has really disappeared as of late. He is still winning some matchups and getting his pressure, but he is not jumping off the tv-tape like he was consistently in the beginning of the season. He did manage a sack in this game, but it was more of a coverage sack where Ryan Finley stepped up into Tuitt’s lap.
At the midway point of the season, Tuitt looked like the best player on the team, and possibly the best player in the NFL, with an absurd rate of QB hits. He was every bit as disruptive in the running game as he was the passing game, too. In week 15, PFF game him a 44.5 run defense grade including a missed tackle. For all the injuries on the defense, the best players need to pick up even more slack, and Tuitt is currently failing to do so.
QB Ben Roethlisberger – Stock Down
For the second week in a row, Ben Roethlisberger’s stock is pointing down. He said he would like to finish out his contract and play through the 2021 season, but the last few weeks, and week 15 in particular, have left people wondering if that is what is best for the team. Of course, Roethlisberger will get to play until he wishes to retire and I doubt anyone will force him out the door, but he was throwing off target passes all night and never gave the offense a chance to get going. Even in a game where the rushing attack showed some signs of life, Roethlisberger was not able to take advantage of the extra dimension.
One of the worst games of a 17 season career will certainly land a player on the wrong side of this list.