Pittsburgh Steelers Week 4 Stock Report
It was a roller coaster of a Week 3 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who managed to escape St. Louis with a 12-6 win over the Rams, bringing their record to 2-1 on the year. But it also came at the expense of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is set to miss at least a month with a left knee injury.
It's a short week of preparation for the Steelers, who play host to the rival Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night. Which Steelers players have seen their stocks rise or fall in the intervening days?
Stock Up: RB Le'Veon Bell
With Michael Vick handling the Steelers' quarterback duties for the foreseeable future, running back Le'Veon Bell will become even more valuable to Pittsburgh's offense. It's not just what he brings as a runner but rather as a receiver that has his stock on the rise this week.
There's no doubt that the Ravens and all other teams the Steelers will have to face sans Roethlisberger will be keying in on Bell in the run game, which could keep his production in check. But as a receiver, he'll be a necessary safety blanket for Vick.
Last year, Bell caught 105 passes for 854 yards and led the Steelers with 723 yards after the catch. That after-the-catch ability is why he should be a favorite target for Vick and why Bell should see his role expand to an even bigger one while Roethlisberger recovers.
Stock Down: The Offensive Line
It's not that the Steelers offensive linemen have done anything wrong, but switching from Roethlisberger to Vick is going to make all of their jobs that much more difficult.
Vick is a mobile quarterback, similar to how Roethlisberger can move the pocket to extend plays. But Vick's mobility is of a different sort—he's not averse to straight-up scrambling when plays break down, compared to Roethlisberger's big-bodied elusiveness. This will add extra stress on Pittsburgh's offensive line.
Another wrinkle: Vick is left-handed, which means his blind side is now being protected by right tackle Marcus Gilbert. The field has been reversed for the entire offense, and the O-line will carry the biggest weight of that change.
It could be a tough transition for a Steelers line that has settled in comfortably blocking for and protecting Roethlisberger.
Stock Up: DE Stephon Tuitt
It's been a good 2015 thus far for Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Finally a full-time starter, he is the team's sack leader, with 2.5, after adding one to his total against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3.
He also had six combined tackles against the Rams, including one for a loss, bringing his tackle total to 11 on the year. Tuitt ranks sixth among 3-4 defensive ends and is tied for seventh among 3-4 ends in pass-rushing productivity, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Steelers needed more production out of their front seven this year, and Tuitt has led the charge. The better he gets, the better the rest of the defensive line gets—which helps the linebackers and, in turn, the struggling secondary.
Stock Down: LB Ryan Shazier
It had been a good start to the 2015 season for Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier. But, much like his rookie year, it's now been marred by an injury.
A hurt shoulder forced him to miss the game against the St. Louis Rams, and the team has ruled him out for Thursday night's meeting with the Baltimore Ravens.
Shazier is still the Steelers' leading tackler, with 22 combined (including four for a loss). He also has one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He's on pace to have a good year—but only if he can get healthy. His stock is down simply because he's had yet another injury-related setback in his young career.
Stock Up: CB Ross Cockrell
The Steelers brought cornerback Ross Cockrell aboard when they had to establish their 53-man roster in early September. The 2014 Buffalo Bills draft pick played very little in his rookie year, and there was no way to truly tell what, if anything, he'd bring to the Steelers this season.
But with cornerback Cortez Allen out in Week 3, Cockrell got his first on-field chance with the Steelers. And he made the most of it, allowing just one pass completion on three targets in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus. He also totaled six combined tackles in the game and had one pass defensed.
Cockrell could see even more playing time on Thursday with Allen deemed questionable. The Steelers may have located a hidden gem who can help their secondary get out of its early-season doldrums.