The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Who should win the Steelers’ rookie of the year award?
It doesn’t really seem to be all that often that the Steelers have multiple contenders on the roster for their rookie of the year award. This season, they have three very, very legitimate candidates for that honor, with all three of them in the starting lineup, and, quite frankly, I can’t think of the last time they have had three deserving players.
The Steelers did have three rookies in the starting lineup by the end of the 2014 season, but they did not have the year this current trio has had. And there was a clear winner. In 2016, and of the three of the team’s first three draft picks, I think, would be more than deserving of the award, relative to the competition.
Starting with first-round cornerback Artie Burns, the 21-year-old was viewed as a very raw player who was not even a full-time starter at Miami, but he had good size and speed and ball skills. Entering the starting lineup after the bye week, he had recorded three interceptions to lead the team, along with 12 pass deflections, and 57 tackles.
Second-round safety Sean Davis actually opened the season as the team’s starting slot cornerback, in part due to injuries, and in part due to the fact that Burns wasn’t ready to start yet. But he dealt with injuries and went back to the bench. After the bye week, however, he began to rotate at strong safety, and took over the job two weeks later. He has recorded 61 tackles and one interception, with five passes defensed—including a touchdown-saver against the Ravens—and half a sack, which was reduced down from two sacks, as he was originally credited.
Finally, there is third-round defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who actually began the season as the starting nose tackle. Since Cameron Heyward’s injury, however, he has played a much larger role. With 25 tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovered for a touchdown, he has been their most consistent rookie.
While the Steelers have had other rookie contributors—which in other years may have done enough to earn rookie of the year—it is obvious that for this class, the honor is going to go to one of the three aforementioned. I have my opinion as to who should get it, though it’s not locked in. Who do you have in mind?