The Pittsburgh Steelers stumbled their way into another victory against the Tennessee Titans after a familiar slow start. The team needed every last bit of the four forced turnovers and the final fourth down stand to put the game away. With some players working their way back from injury, the snap counts were distributed different than normal, so here are the players with their stock on the move after week 15:
OLB DERREK TUSZKA – STOCK UP
Derrek Tuszka played an expanded role once again as TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith needed a bit of rotation working back from injury. Tuszka got the majority of the snaps of the bench, playing 20, compared to Taco Charlton’s 7. Tuszka created some splash with a big strip sack on the Titans’ final drive of the game. In his first career sack, set up 3rd and 15 which eventually led to Joe Haden defending every last blade of grass to seal the game with his fourth down tackle. He had to earn the play, as he fought through a facemask penalty to strip the ball. Pro Football Focus gave him the highest Steelers defensive grade of the game with an overall grade of 92.7.
Kudos to Derrek Tuszka. Registered his first NFL sack yesterday. And it was a big one. Fought through a hold for a strip/sack on the Titans' final drive, putting them into 3rd and 15 that led to Joe Haden's 4th down stop. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/8AJvSYo2u5
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 20, 2021
NT CARLOS DAVIS – STOCK DOWN
Perhaps this is a rush to judgement after Carlos Davis missed the first 13 games of the season for the Steelers, but his 2021 debut was not pretty. The team allowed over 200 yards rushing against the Titans (who were missing Derrick Henry) and Minkah Fitzpatrick was the team lead in tackles for the game with 14. Anytime the safety is forced to make that many tackles, something is going wrong up front.
If you remember back to when Montravius Adams joined the team and instantly played above expectations, Mike Tomlin cited nose tackle being an easy spot to fill in for as one of the reasons. So, we can’t exactly make the excuse for Davis, when Adams did essentially the same thing two weeks earlier. Henry Mondeaux played more snaps than Davis in his return, so it calls into question how many snaps will there be to go around once Adams returns from the covid list.
DE ISAIAHH LOUDERMILK – STOCK UP
Isaiahh Loudermilk deserves some attention, playing a good amount of snaps as a rookie defensive end and being one of the more reliable run stoppers on the team. He is playing a lot better than anyone would have guessed as a rookie. The Steelers traded away a 2022 fourth round pick to move back into the 5th round of 2021’s draft to acquire Loudermilk. Many people questioned the pick as some didn’t even have Loudermilk rated on their draft board.
He has definitely had his rookie moments of raw play, but his work two-gapping as the 3-4 defensive end in the Steelers system is one that historically took players multiple seasons to learn and see the field. Cameron Heyward himself didn’t see the field much until his third season. The physical tools are there, and the technique is coming along early in his career. The Steelers may have found themselves a draft steal in the fourth round.
— Steelers Depot 🎅🎄🎁 (@Steelersdepot) December 21, 2021
C KENDRICK GREEN – STOCK DOWN
Once again Kendrick Green was among the worst performers on the team in week 15. Ben Roethlisberger did praise Green for improving with his snaps against the Titans over the disastrous Vikings game last week, but that is where the improvement stops. For this one, I will just let a couple of clips do the talking:
Well, this is not ideal run blocking from Kendrick Green pic.twitter.com/3MLpmpWmp7
— 2021 Jim (@SportsingJim) December 19, 2021
kendrick green – 305 lbs
zach cunningham – 234 lbs pic.twitter.com/I9RpucwdGS
— ivan (ben lover) (@poopooschuster) December 21, 2021
CB AHKELLO WITHERSPOON – STOCK UP
Ahkello Witherspoon finds himself on the good side of this list for three straight weeks. After filling in for Joe Haden for the last two games, it was unclear what role he would retain once Haden returned. He returned in week 15, and Witherspoon actually out snapped him 56-to-27. Haden wasn’t going to be able to play the full game, so it makes sense to continue playing Witherspoon after his two interception performance last week.
Witherspoon didn’t have quite the same splash that he did against the Vikings, but only allowed one reception his way on three targets and seemed to keep good position in coverage throughout the game. The knock on him will continue to be his tackling ability as he did miss two or three tackles in this game. Either way, his stock is well up from just a few weeks ago when people were rightfully questioning the draft pick investment via trade. Now, he has a chance to be a rotational player on a team in the playoff hunt.