The Pittsburgh Steelers were smacked around on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. The Bengals swept the Steelers for the first time since 2009, and did so in convincing fashion. There were some surprises on the inactive list, and with Joe Haden out, there was a lot to look at in the secondary.
Here are the players with their stock on the move after Week 12:
TE PAT FREIERMUTH – STOCK UP
Pat Freiermuth continues to add to his value, having added a sixth touchdown catch to his rookie campaign. He continues to be one of the only consistent red zone threats on the team. Freiermuth leads all tight ends in the NFL in targets inside the 10 yard line, getting nine looks for five touchdowns.
Being at Sunday’s game in person and seeing Zach Gentry standing next to Pat Freiermuth reminded me how much room Freiermuth has to add to his frame. At 23 years old, the arrow is pointing straight up for the young tight end.
NT ISAIAH BUGGS – STOCK DOWN
Isaiah Buggs was a healthy scratch in Week 12, as the Steelers opted to elevate Daniel Archibong from the practice squad for just five snaps instead of giving Buggs a helmet. Mostly, Cameron Heyward and Chris Wormley shifted inside more to try and fill the nose tackle role. Now, the Steelers have signed Montravius Adams from the Saints’ practice squad, and the chances are pretty good that he will get playing time at nose tackle as Mike Tomlin looks to shake things up. Isaiah Buggs had a golden opportunity this season with Tyson Alualu’s injury. One man’s misfortune is another’s fortune. Buggs did not seize that opportunity. Carlos Davis also has his 21-day window to be activated off IR expiring soon, so that could mean two players ahead of Buggs on the depth chart.
OT CHUKWUMA OKORAFOR – STOCK UP
After preparing all offseason for left tackle and then ending up at right tackle, Chuks took his lumps this season and ended up on the other end of this list more than once. Overall, his play has been much better as of late. Against a tough defensive front in Cincinnati he was the best offensive linemen for the Steelers on Sunday. This isn’t a high bar when you consider the team was on their third string left guard (B.J. Finney) and two of the other three are rookies, but he did not allow a sack and generally gave Najee Harris a chance throughout the game.
Pro Football Focus gave him one of the top marks on the offense on Sunday with a 76.3 overall grade, including a 79.7 mark in run blocking. It is a shame that we will likely never get to see Chuks at left tackle after he prepared for it all offseason. Many have given Chuks a bad rap this season due to his early struggles, but he has arguably been the top performer on the unit over the course of the last several weeks.
ILB DEVIN BUSH – STOCK DOWN
Devin Bush will be a constant on this list as long as his play continues to be so poor. His stock is in freefall as he appears to be in a race to the bottom. Joe Schobert has honestly been just as bad, but its hard to mention anything else when Devin Bush’s level of effort seems so low. Former Steeler, Arthur Moats, said it best on 93.7 The Fan, “Don’t tell me you want to make plays when you’re not showing that effort.”
Mike Tomlin mentioned forthcoming personnel changes in both his post-game presser and his Tuesday presser. It is easy to wonder if Devin Bush being benched might be one of those changes. He has been slow to diagnose plays, passive at the point of attack, and overall lacking any kind of physicality.
— Steelers Depot 🦃 (@Steelersdepot) November 29, 2021
CB JAMES PIERRE – STOCK DOWN
James Pierre is another player who got his golden opportunity this season to show he belongs in the NFL. It hasn’t all been bad, but filling in as the starter with Joe Haden out injured has been a resounding failure. Pierre has been directly responsible for a minimum of one touchdown in each of the last two games, and has allowed an NFL passer rating of 144.8 into his coverage in his last two starts. Against the Bengals, he was in perfect position to make the play, but inexplicably turned his body and failed to play the ball as Tee Higgins tacked on six.
Alex Kozora did an excellent job in this film room breaking down his Sunday performance. Mike Tomlin told the media, “I was in the stadium, so that’s why we made the changes we did”. He was referring to James Pierre being pulled towards the end of the game in favor of Ahkello Witherspoon.
The life of an NFL corner means having some bad days. Unfortunately for James Pierre, Sunday was an especially difficult one. Breaking down his struggles against the Bengals. Zone, press, and tackling, all problems in this one. #Steelers https://t.co/YFlL7hLF4d pic.twitter.com/UmnikGyZeV
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 30, 2021