The Steelers season has come to an end after they flamed out against the Cleveland Browns at home in Heinz Field. The game never really had a chance, as the Steelers were down 28-0 in the blink of an eye before the Steelers started to trade punches. There were some disappointing performances from players who the Steelers relied on in their 11 game win streak and others that elevated their level of play to finish out the season.
Here are the players with their stock on the move after the playoff defeat in the wildcard round:
WR Juju Smith-Schuster – Stock Up
Juju Smith-Schuster just had a big-time game for the Steelers in the playoffs. Among all the wide receivers, he played the most snaps with 86 out of a possible 89. He got plenty of burn on those snaps with a season-high 157 yards with 13 receptions on 18 targets. Juju has one of the lower average target distances in the league, but in this game he was working the intermediate routes and had 42 yards after the catch.
Juju may have played his last snap as a Pittsburgh Steeler, but he went out with one of his better games. Good news for him with his stock on the rise before free agency.
C Maurkice Pouncey – Stock Down
Maurkice Pouncey may have also played his last snap as a member of the Steelers, and it was on the opposite end of the spectrum as Juju. Of course, it started with the errant high snap which resulted in a touchdown and gave the Browns the lead that they never gave up. He hasn’t quite been himself all season as he hasn’t been working to the second level or pulling effectively in the run game. Pro Football Focus graded him with both his season low run blocking grade and his season low overall grade. Not a good way to possibly end his career in Pittsburgh.
ILB Avery Williamson – Stock Down
Avery Williamson had a decent stretch for the Steelers, if nothing else as a sure tackler in the middle of the field. In the playoff game he only got 13 defensive snaps as Robert Spillane returned from IR. In a game where Spillane didn’t play particularly well (29.8 defensive grade) Williamson couldn’t eat into his snap count. Williamson is another free agent whose stock is pointing down right before he enters free agency.
CB James Pierre – Stock Up
James Pierre was able to get 8 snaps in the playoff game against the Browns. It wasn’t a large enough sample size to tell for sure, but he played pretty well in his limited action. This may seem like a small amount, but nobody knew his name prior to the season and he seems to have completely passed former third round draft pick Justin Layne on the depth chart. James Pierre will be someone to watch moving into the offseason where the Steelers could lose a lot of their depth in the secondary to free agency.
OLB Ola Adeniyi – Stock Down
Ola Adeniyi is another player who should have had more snaps in this game. Bud Dupree was obviously out with a season ending injury, and Alex Highsmith went down injured in this game with an upper ankle injury. Ola ended with 9 snaps, while Cassius Marsh, who was a recent addition to the team, played 46. He adds value as a special teamer, but the Steelers will have to decide whether to put a restricted free agent tender on him in the offseason.