Entering their bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to fight their way back to a 3-3 (.500) record. The team is the healthiest it has been since week one, and it has a chance to return two more players from IR, as Anthony McFarland Jr. and Stephon Tuitt have been spotted getting a workout in at practice recently.
Here are the players with their stock on the move after week six:
CB TRE NORWOOD – STOCK UP
Tre Norwood had a huge game against the Seattle Seahawks, making three key stops on third down. For a rookie, that shows great football instinct to play sound situational football. He isn’t trying to do too much, but focusing on how he operates within the defense has allowed him to make good individual plays with impressive consistency. Mike Tomlin said the type of night Norwood had is one you “grow from in a big way”.
His three key plays in week six were against DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, tough competition to be sure. When you consider Norwood made that type of impact while only logging 15 snaps, that is both a testament to his preparation and to the coaches for using him in advantageous situations. He led the entire team (offense or defense) with an “elite” Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 92.9.
ILB DEVIN BUSH – STOCK DOWN
After playing perhaps his best game of the season in week five, Devin Bush struggled against the Seahawks. He missed a good chunk of last season with an ACL injury, and is now suffering from up-and-down play that has left some wondering if his 5th year option will be picked up. The criticism is fair given the draft capital invested in him.
He provides a good skillset in the passing game with his athleticism and he does have that sideline-to-sideline speed that teams covet for an every down linebacker, but the game has not seemed to slow down much for him over his career. Before his injury he was playing next to eight year team veteran, Vince Williams, and now is next to Joe Schobert who has been on the team for only two months. The “crutch” is gone, and it is showing, as Bush had multiple missed gap assignments that contributed to the 2nd half defensive breakdowns. His nastiness in the run game has also been missing as of late. He was passive at the point of attack and when he did put himself in position to make the play, he ended up overrunning the ball carrier on at least one occasion. He is only 11 months removed from a major surgery, so the jury is still out, but the early returns are inconsistent.
OLB ALEX HIGHSMITH – STOCK UP
Alex Highsmith had his 2021 breakout game in week six, after battling through a groin injury earlier in the season. He registered 1.5 sacks, and led the team with 5 total pressures. His quick first step off the line of scrimmage has been well documented, but when healthy he has displayed the ability to convert that speed into power at the top of the arc to rip through the defender and penetrate the pocket.
His stock had been tentatively pointing up, because you got the sense it was only a matter of time. Well, that time appears to be now and he should only get healthier during the bye week.
WR JAMES WASHINGTON – STOCK DOWN
James Washington only played 8 snaps in the first game since Juju Smith-Schuster went on injured reserve. There were rumors of Washington demanding a trade earlier in the offseason that were largely unsubstantiated, but it makes you wonder when Mike Tomlin said in his Tuesday presser that his lack of playing time was due to matchups rather than an injury. Still, per our very own Tom Mead’s charting, James Washington was not on the field after the 06:44 mark of the second quarter. Something tells me we aren’t getting the whole story here. Ray-Ray McCloud was the preferred 3rd wide receiver, registering 52 snaps to James Washington’s 8.
OT ZACH BANNER – STOCK UP
Zach Banner will have a tough time hopping back on the moving train, as Mike Tomlin puts it. Tomlin also said the team wanted to play it safe with Banner up against the Bye week like this. Might as well give him the extra time because what is one extra week in over a year long recovery. Banner wanted to play and he said as much before the Denver Broncos game in week 5. It is unclear what his role will be, but after a long wait the team will get a good look at Zach Banner. Having too many starting caliber tackles is a good problem to have, and an unexpected one after all of the turnover on the offensive line.