It is to me somewhat baffling that the Pittsburgh Steelers have two rookie starters in their lineup. It is even more baffling to me that their workload from their rookie draft class pales in comparison to the vast majority of the rest of the league.
According to Pro Football Focus, following the Week 10 games—which does not include Thursday Night’s win over the Titans, of course—the Steelers ranked just 24th league-wide in terms of total snaps contributed (on offense and defense) from their rookie draft class.
Of course, they have only had three rookies in total that have even seen any type of work on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. First-round outside linebacker T.J. Watt looks to be the first start-to-finish rookie starter on the defensive side of the ball since Kendrell Bell, while JuJu Smith-Schuster on offense has essentially emerged as their number two target among wide receivers.
Aside from their aforementioned picks in the first and second rounds, they have also gotten about a couple dozen snaps or so out of third-round running back James Conner, but his workload has been limited by his limitations in his ability to contribute to the passing game, either as a receiver or as a blocker. He had a failed blitz pickup earlier this season that led to an interception being thrown.
It doesn’t help that their other third-round draft pick, cornerback Cameron Sutton, has spent the first 11 weeks of the season on injured reserve. Had he stayed healthy, I think there is a pretty good chance that he would have at least worked into the dime defense. Mike Hilton, of course, would in no way be deserving of giving up his spot, considering the work he has done in all areas in his first season.
The hope is that Joshua Dobbs doesn’t play a single snap this season. The only way that could possibly be a good thing is if the Steelers lock up the number one seed, allowing Ben Roethlisberger to sit out a game, and then Landry Jones does so well in a blowout win that they have to rest him at the end of the game. Otherwise he should never even dress.
Fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen has had a hard time dressing, but he is at the bottom of a deep cornerback group, and he has at least contributed on special teams when he has been active.
The sixth-round selection of Colin Holba and his subsequent failure to make the team nearly got Mike Tomlin fired (narrator: he is being sarcastic), and seventh-round outside linebacker Keion Adams is on injured reserve.
The Steelers have gotten about 850 snaps out of their rookies this year, almost all of which have come from two players. In comparison, the 49ers have over 2000 snaps more from their rookie class, with George Kittle leading the way. The Saints, Jets, Colts, Browns, Bills, Titans, Buccaneers, and Jaguars have all gotten at least 1500 snaps form their rookies this year as well.