Ah, lists. They sure are fun to argue about. At the very least, they tend to draw in discussion, which tends to be more valuable and rewarding than the list itself. To that end, I have another list for you today, and another one from Pro Football Focus.
This one is the midseason all-rookie team, and there is a Pittsburgh Steelers rookie on it. One, not two. While T.J. Watt has been starting all season at right outside linebacker, missing only one game due to injury and recording four sacks with an interception, he did not make the list.
The rookie edge defenders who beat him out for recognition were a pair of divisional rivals, in fact, with the Bengals represented by the impressive Carl Lawson, a player I admittedly liked a lot during the draft. Though he got off to a slow start due to injuries, Myles Garrett from the Cleveland Browns also made the list. He has four sacks in three games.
It’s worth noting that this list did not include an honorable mentions category. I’m certain if that was included here, Watt would have gotten a mention. He has been very solid in all phases, including on special teams, though he is still going to get better.
If you can’t guess which rookie from the Steelers made the list at this point, then I don’t really know why you’re reading this site, as you evidently don’t follow the team very closely. JuJu Smith-Schuster was one of the two wide receivers to make the list, along with Cooper Kupp of the Rams.
The article notes that Smith-Schuster is averaging 1.94 yards per route run, which is the most of all rookie wide receivers, but it reads that he “makes the team almost entirely off of his Week 8 game against the Lions where he had 193 yards on seven catches”.
Because of that game, including most of a 97-yard touchdown reception, he has 219 yards after the catch, which is more yards in total than any rookie wide receiver has aside from Kupp.
“His run blocking needs to improve to help his grade”, it continues, “but he is primed for more opportunities in the second half”. While he has made some impressive and high-profile blocks, it can’t be dismissed that he has drawn four penalties in this area.
Smith-Schuster’s four touchdown receptions also lead all rookie wide receivers, with only three of them having two or more, Kupp himself owning three scores. His quarterback rating when targeted of 135.9 is also the best among rookies.
For some reason, they also completely ignore the fact that he has the highest yards per route run out of the slot in the league, averaging 2.37 yards per route run when lined up inside. His overall yards per route run is also the 16th-highest among all wide receivers. And he has a bunch of third-down conversions.