Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OLB Derrek Tuszka
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The second-year outside linebacker gained increased playing time late in the 2021 season for the Steelers and had the opportunity to make a couple of splash plays down the stretch, helping his case to stay on the team next year.
A seventh-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2020, Derrek Tuszka starved for opportunities during his rookie season, outside of special teams. He did not make the 53-man roster in year two, but the Steelers signed him to their practice squad.
When injuries at the outside linebacker position left them without depth in week three, the Steelers elevated him from the practice squad; then they decided to sign him to the 53-man roster and waive Jamir Jones, who had not been flashing in his limited opportunities.
(He was claimed by the Los Angeles Rams, but finished the season with the Jacksonville Jaguars—so he could’ve been in the Super Bowl, but instead doesn’t even have a head coach)
Especially after the trade of Melvin Ingram, the Steelers had to play Tuszka, who was averaging a couple dozen snaps per game for a stretch. He finished with 247 defensive snaps on the season, with 18 tackles, one for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble. He had two tackles, including one for loss, in 10 snaps during the postseason.
Behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, Taco Charlton is the only other depth player of note on the offseason roster right now outside of Tuszka. It’s obviously a position that the Steelers will have to seriously address over the next few months, but with Tuszka picking up his play late in the year, he stands a chance of hanging around.
The fact that he also played 194 snaps on special teams in 15 games doesn’t hurt his cause, either. He pretty much became a core player, late in the season hitting 75 percent of special teams snaps played in a couple of games.