Pittsburgh Steelers Week 16 Stock Report
The Pittsburgh Steelers moved up one spot in the AFC's playoff seeding after their 34-27 defeat of the visiting Denver Broncos in Week 15. It was a thrilling game, with the Steelers struggling on offense and especially defense in the first half, before the team regrouped to come together to orchestrate the comeback victory.
So who helped and who hurt the Steelers in the win over Denver? Here is the Steelers' stock report for Week 16 as Pittsburgh prepares to take on the rival Baltimore Ravens.
Stock Up: CB Brandon Boykin
Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin saw the most playing time of the season against the Broncos, playing 51 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Only William Gay played more cornerback snaps in the game.
Boykin totaled two combined tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defensed. Pro Football Focus notes that he gave up only one catch on three targets, for seven yards and two yards after the catch.
The Steelers traded a fifth-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in the summer for Boykin's services, but it's only been until recently that he's been on the field with any regularity. And with Boykin playing so much against Denver, expect that snap count to remain high through the regular season and, potentially, into the playoffs.
Stock Down: CB Antwon Blake
Cornerback Antwon Blake's snap count continues to be on the decline. He played 32 (out of 60) snaps in Week 13, 31 out of (58) in Week 14 and 45 (of 78) against Denver, according to Pro Football Focus.
And that decreased playing time isn't keeping him fresh or helping to improve his technique. Blake gave up three catches on four targets, for 32 yards and a touchdown in Week 15. The performance brought his touchdowns allowed total to eight on the season, with only two interceptions.
Blake has been a liability all year, which is reflected in his decreased playing time over the previous three weeks. Expect his snaps to be truncated yet again in Week 16, with William Gay, Brandon Boykin and Ross Cockrell handling the majority of the cornerback duties.
Stock Up: DC Keith Butler
The Steelers defense was in bad shape during the first half of the meeting with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos had 295 yards of offense through two quarters, including 207 passing. They were 8-of-8 on third down and had scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions.
But Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler was not defeated. He made considerable halftime adjustments that resulted in the Broncos scoring no additional points in the game. The Broncos had only 90 yards of offense in the second half—74 passing, 16 rushing—and only converted one additional third down.
So many times this year, Pittsburgh's defense has struggled through all four quarters. But Butler was prepared to make changes to his approach against Denver. And those changes paid off, with the Steelers preventing any further damage. This is good news with two games between the Steelers and the postseason.
Stock Down: C Cody Wallace
Steelers center Cody Wallace has been the starter since Week 1 when Maurkice Pouncey went down with an ankle injury. His season has been up and down. And Week 15 was decidedly a down one for Wallace.
Not only did he give up a sack and two hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, but he was also flagged four times, with three of the penalties accepted.
One of those penalties was an unnecessary roughness call after Wallace launched himself helmet-first at Denver defender David Bruton after the play had ended. The penalty resulted in Wallace receiving a $34,152 fine from the league.
On the season, Wallace has given up four sacks, seven quarterback hits and 29 hurries. But where he's hurt the Steelers most is in penalties. He has 12 on the year, plus two declined, making him the Steelers' most-flagged player on offense.
Wallace needs to learn from his mistakes, particularly the big ones he made in Week 15. He cannot be a weak spot on the offensive line at this crucial point in the season.
Stock Up: WR Antonio Brown
If there is a ceiling for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, it has hardly become even visible yet. Brown had a monster performance against the Denver Broncos and their top-ranked defense in Week 15 and managed to break a few records along the way.
Brown caught 16 of 18 passes thrown his way for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He's the first player in league history to have two 15-reception games in a season, and he helped Ben Roethlisberger be the only quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards against Denver. His two touchdowns were the first that Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has allowed in two years.
For his efforts, Brown was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. And with two regular-season games left to play, it may not be the last time he wins the honor this year.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.