Yesterday, I brought to you good news about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie draft class. All of their top three draft picks are in the starting lineup, with first-round cornerback Artie Burns at right cornerback, second-round safety Sean Davis at strong safety, and third-round defensive tackle Javon Hargrave at nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, but primarily as a nickel defensive tackle.
All three rookies are playing nearly all, or at least a majority, of the Steelers’ defensive snaps at this point of the season, with the group combining to play something like 170 snaps on Sunday. And obviously they are going to be playing a big role in today’s game against the Colts.
But the same cannot be said for the top three draft picks of the Steelers’ 2015 class. In fact, of their three top picks, they only logged a total of two snaps on either offense or defense on Sunday, and that is not expected to climb appreciably today.
It would make most sense to start in the middle and talk about 2015 second-round cornerback Senquez Golson. He was supposed to be the Steelers’ nickel back this season, but, given that he is on injured reserve, that will obviously not happen. He has yet to take a preseason game rep two years into his career.
First-round outside linebacker Bud Dupree was only activated from injured reserve on Saturday after undergoing an operation to repair a core muscle injury, but he played just one snap on defense. While the team has said that they intended to have him play a larger role, I would not anticipate him getting more than a dozen snaps or so, barring perhaps a blowout.
Finally, there is third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates, who looked like he was rounding into something of the real deal at the position before he got what he has referred to as a “busted hand”. While he remains the team’s starting kick returner and functions as a gunner and jammer on special teams, he has barely seen the field on offense recently in spite of the fact that they are down to only three wide receivers without him.
The Steelers were banking on strong draft classes to produce a quick turnaround in building a new core of their team for the next generation, but injuries have sidelined their top three draft picks from 2015 in their critical second season.
Consider that today while watching the game, about how much different this team might look if they were able to have these three players on the field today and functioning at full capacity. Coates’ deep speed would allow the offense to stretch the field in a way they have not since he was injured.
While the defense stockpiled sacks last week, Dupree’s athleticism alone would allow them to scheme him into better opportunities, but he is not yet up to speed. It is difficult to ascertain what Golson’s role would be right now relative to Burns and William Gay, but at a bare minimum, he would provide the team with depth and options, which they currently lack.