Pro Football Focus posted a very interesting infographic on Twitter related to average snaps played by rookies by individual teams over the course of the last five seasons and it will come as no surprise to most of you where the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked.
According to PFF’s numbers, the Steelers averaged 1,623 snaps played by rookies from 2012-2016 and only the Denver Broncos had a lower number league-wide.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 27, 2017
As previously stated, the Steelers low average is not a surprise at all and especially when you consider that Dick LeBeau was the team’s defensive coordinator for three of the five seasons. On top of that, the Steelers possessed a very veteran roster from 2012-2015. In fact, during the 2013 season, the Steelers defense include rookies playing approximately 1,236 regular season snaps and former outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was responsible for just over half of those. On the offensive side of the football, rookies only played approximately 836 total snaps in 2013.
In 2014, LeBeau’s final season as the Steelers defensive coordinator, rookies only played approximately 718 total defensive snaps while on the offensive side of the football approximately 364 snaps were played by rookie players.
During the 2015 season, which was the first season as a defensive coordinator for Keith Butler, approximately 612 total defensive snaps were played by rookies while approximately 222 total snaps were logged by rookies on the offensive side of the football.
Last season we saw quite an uptick in rookie snaps played for the Steelers as the team’s first three draft picks, cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, all combined to play a whopping 2,042 total defensive snaps, approximately. Add in the few defensive snaps played by defensive end Johnny Maxey and linebacker Tyler Matakevich and you get an approximate total of 2,112 defensive rookie snaps played. The Steelers, however, didn’t use rookie very much on offense last season as wide receiver Demarcus Ayers was the lone player to log any playing time and to the tune of 82 approximate snaps.
So, what does the 2017 season hold for Steelers rookies when it comes to playing time? On the surface and barring any significant injuries, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, figures to play at least 500 defensive snaps during his rookie season, one would think. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers second-round draft pick this year, also figures to see the field some as well and it will be interesting to see if he ultimately hits that 500 mark. As for the other six Steelers 2017 draft picks, running back James Conner and cornerback Cameron Sutton could both wind up seeing some playing time as well, but as to how much, is yet to be seen and hard to speculate about as we sit here in late May.
The Steelers, unlike most of the other teams in the NFL, never rebuild. Instead, they choose to reload, if you will, and the 2016 season was a perfect example of them doing just that.
* Data compiled from NFL Gamebooks and sportingcharts.com