The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books and they enter the playoffs with a 12-4 record. That was the worst finish of any 11-0 team in league history, but a 12-4 record is still good nonetheless. There were some things to be optimistic about in the final two weeks between the come-from-behind victory against the Indianapolis Colts and the near victory over the Cleveland Browns with many starters resting.
These players have their stock on the move after week 17:
QB Mason Rudolph – Stock Up
I don’t know what it means for his future, or the future of the quarterback position of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Mason Rudolph was impressive in week 17. It understandably took him some time to shake of the rust early in the game, but he kept the match competitive with good deep ball accuracy and limited errors.
Rudolph finished the game, against the Browns starting players, with a 56.4 completion percentage for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He did have an interception after trying to extend a play, but overall his performance was above what was expected by many. Rudolph may never start another game for the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger’s contract set to expire at the same time, but him and his agent will certainly point to week 17 in the 2020 season when he looks for his next opportunity.
CB Justin Layne – Stock Down
Justin Layne had a couple opportunities throughout the season with various injuries and covid issues on the team, but he failed to take advantage much in his second year. He does decent on special teams, but when Terrell Edmunds and Joe Haden were both missing in week 17 and the secondary was shorthanded, Justin Layne only got 16 snaps, the fewest on the team behind even James Pierre. Pro Football Focus had him down for two receptions allowed on two targets for 57 yards.
OG Kevin Dotson – Stock Up
Kevin Dotson has had an impressive rookie campaign. At first, he was filling in here and there for injured starters, but heading into the playoffs he could very well be the starter regardless of who returns from injury. For now, that would mean starting over Matt Feiler in the playoffs, but Dotson’s stock is pointing straight up regardless. David DeCastro knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a great guard in the NFL and even he said Kevin Dotson is, “going to have a heck of career”, and that he can’t think of anyone who started out this good as a rookie in his time with the team.
Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Dotson only allowed 1 pressure on 219 pass blocking snaps. That is one of the best rates in the league and was good enough to earn him a spot on PFF’s all-rookie team.
OG David DeCastro – Stock Down
It would have been nice to see David DeCastro get some rest in week 17 along with some of the other starters, but you still have to field a team. DeCastro has not had a particularly good run blocking season, but until recently his pass blocking was pretty good. After battling through some injuries early in the season, it is fair to wonder if DeCastro is not quite healthy. It would not be a surprise to learn of an offseason surgery. Better that than to face the possibility that he is on the decline of a stellar career in Pittsburgh.
OLB Alex Highsmith – Stock Up
Alex Highsmith has played well when given the opportunity all season. He has no doubt benefitted from playing opposite TJ Watt who demands more attention, but in week 17 TJ Watt was not on the field and Alex Highsmith elevated his play. He might have had his best week rushing the passer of the season with four total pressures including a sack. He nearly had two more sacks and was disruptive throughout the game. Highsmith is going to be a great transition from Bud Dupree to keep the front seven intact and dominant for the next few seasons.
QB Joshua Dobbs – Stock Up
Josh Dobbs got some playing time in week 17. While Mason Rudolph got the lion’s share of snaps, and rightfully so, Dobbs was able to come in for designed quarterback runs to add a wrinkle to the offense. The Steelers need to have some yards rushing in the playoffs, and Dobbs could help them attain that goal. At the very least, the Browns have to spend valuable practice reps going over the Dobbs offense after seeing it in week 17. Kevin Stefanksi even admitted as much in a press conference earlier this week.