The Pittsburgh Steelers are now halfway through their 2017 regular season and with eight games left to be played, two of the team’s 2017 draft picks have a nice battle going when it comes to the team’s annual Rookie of the Year honors, which in Pittsburgh is known as the “Joe Greene Great Performance Award.”
Entering the team’s bye week, outside linebacker T.J. Watt and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster have both helped the Steelers tremendously in their first eight games and either one of the two members of this year’s class should be expected to win the annual “Joe Greene Great Performance Award” come season’s end. That award is given annually by the Pittsburgh Chapter of Pro Football Writers of America to the Steelers top rookie and is named after legendary Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene.
As for Watt’s current resume through eight games played, the team’s first-round draft pick this year out of Wisconsin has registered 28 total tackles, four sacks, five passes defensed and one interception in the seven games that he’s played in. Those stats also seemingly have him still in the running for the annual NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award as well. A strong second half by Watt that includes five or six more sacks could ultimately result in him being the Steelers first Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner since 2001 when linebacker Kendrell Bell won it.
When it comes to Smith-Schuster, who is currently the league’s youngest player at 20, the Steelers second-round selection this year out of USC currently leads all rookie wide receivers in receptions (24), receiving yards (424) and touchdown receptions (4). If that’s not enough, Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown reception against the Detroit Lions in Week 8 is currently the longest offensive pass play from scrimmage so far this season. While he’ll need some help, Smith-Schuster could still potentially win the annual NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award with a spectacular second half of season.
Watt and Smith-Schuster both figure to get plenty of playing time during the second half of the regular season and so it figures to be a fun battle to watch the remaining eight games. Last season, then-Steelers rookies cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave all had solid rookie years and you could have made a legitimate argument for each to win the annual “Joe Greene Great Performance Award.” Davis, however, ultimately edged out both Burns and Hargrave for the award.
Bud Dupree was the last outside linebacker to win the “Joe Greene Great Performance Award” while Martavis Bryant was the last wide receiver to win it.