Steelers stock report: Defense gets a boost after Week 1 win

Minkah Fitzpatrick #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Minkah Fitzpatrick #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of good and bad to address after the Week 1 win. Here is my player stock report heading into Week 2. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t come without a flurry of emotions. While we were thrilled that our team was able to upset the reigning AFC North Champions on their own turf in a game that could prove to be pivotal down the line, losing T.J. Watt with a pectoral injury was a devastating blow that made it hard to celebrate the win.

Pittsburgh’s Week 1 contest was a tale of two opposite ends of the spectrum. The defense played lights-out football — picking off Joe Burrow 4 times, swallowing up Joe Mixon for just 3.0 yards per carry, and getting after the quarterback often. They needed every ounce of this energy to pull off the upset.

The offense, meanwhile, was the exact opposite. The offensive line held up well enough in pass protection, but the running game failed to get going as there were failed assignments and a few missed holes on the ground. Mitch Trubisky was equally as bad through the air — averaging just 5.1 yards per attempt and leading his team to just 16 offense points despite an extra period of play.

When it comes to individual performances, there are several players I want to highlight (mostly on the defensive side of the football) as well as some who deserve criticism for their Week 1 performance. Here is a look at my Week 1 Steelers stock report:

Steelers defensive stars hog the spotlight

T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward are widely regarded as the three best players on the Steelers roster; so I guess it’s only suiting that they are the ones who stole the spotlight in the Week 1 upset over the Bengals. Watt and Heyward were incredibly disruptive up front, with each player recording a sack and Watt picking off a pass at the line of scrimmage.

However, it’s Fitzpatrick who gets my game ball in this contest thanks to a spectacular performance not only in the secondary but also on special teams. In addition to recording 14 tackles, an interception, and a defensive touchdown, Fitzpatrick blocked the Bengals’ PAT that would have sealed the game in regulation.

In addition to Pittsburgh’s defensive stars showing up big, Alex Highsmith exploded for a three-sack performance opposite of Watt, while Myles Jack was rock-solid in his first regular-season game in a Steelers uniform. All three of Pittsburgh’s top cornerbacks held their own against one of the league’s best passing offenses and WR duos. Ahkello Witherspoon and Cameron Sutton each came away with an interception.

Stock is dropping for Steelers offensive players

Among the Steelers with stock falling after the first week, none is more notable than quarterback, Mitch Trubisky. After a very impressive 2022 preseason, Trubisky struggled to move the ball through the air and only had two big-time passes on the afternoon (one of which came on a trick play). On third downs, he was far too content to check the ball underneath.

Trubisky wasn’t alone when it comes to offensive struggles. Both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren underwhelmed in the backfield — each earning just 2.3 yards per carry on the afternoon. The offensive line is partially to blame because of poor run-blocking, but the RBs missed a few holes as well. The OL played better than expected, but Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, and Dan Moore were the worst of the group — particularly when trying to pave lanes on the ground.

George Pickens was also very quiet in his NFL debut despite significant snap totals on offense. While much of this wasn’t his fault, he failed to make a difference either way — finishing the game with just 1 catch on 3 targets for 3 yards.

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There are plenty of other players who deserve recognition for their performances this week, but these are the biggest risers and fallers on my Steelers stock report as we head into Pittsburgh’s Week 2 matchup against the New England Patriots.