Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Updating The Rookies (Part Two)

The preseason rookie tale of the tape compared statistics of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top three draft picks plus Joshua Dobbs and their contemporaries selected by other teams in the 2018 NFL draft. A rookie update was provided four games into the regular season.

Here is a comparison to their counterparts with one half of the regular season completed:


Here we see Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs compared against the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft:

Passing stats through week 8 of the regular season (stats via Pro Football Reference):

Name G GS Snaps Snap % Cmp Att Cmp % YDs TDs INTs Sack Y/C Y/G Rating
Josh Dobbs 2 0 2 0.40 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Mason Rudolph 0 0 0 0.00 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Baker Mayfield 6 5 413 69.41 130 223 58.3 1471 8 6 20 11.3 245.2 78.9
Sam Darnold 8 8 502 100.00 138 250 55.2 1705 11 10 17 12.4 213.1 74.5
Josh Allen (I) 6 5 322 64.66 75 139 54.0 832 2 5 21 11.1 138.7 61.8
Josh Rosen (I) 6 5 314 69.93 94 169 55.6 1072 5 6 16 11.4 178.7 69.9
Lamar Jackson 8 0 73 11.93 6 11 54.5 75 1 0 1 12.5 9.4 106.2

Synopsis of each listed quarterback for the first half of the 2018 season:

Joshua Dobbs & Mason Rudolph (3rd/76 overall) have not appeared in a game so far. Dobbs has been active on gameday with just two snaps in the victory formation of two games. The Steelers placed Rudolph on the inactive roster for their first seven games.

Baker Mayfield (1st/1 overall) His debut was the 3rd game with 2 minutes left in in 1st half and helped the Cleveland Browns win their first game in a longtime. Mayfield started every game since but now must deal with the loss of his head coach and offensive coordinator. His offensive line has allowed Baker to be sacked 20 times, but he is averaging over 245 yard passing per game.

Sam Darnold (1st/3 overall) He has started all the New York Jets eight games and played every offensive snap. Darnold has scored one touchdown rushing in addition to his eleven TD passes. However, he leads the NFL in interceptions with ten. Darnold is averaging 12.4 yards per completion which is exceptionally good. New York Jets fans should be happy with his progress.

Josh Allen (1st/7 overall) He played in the Buffalo Bills first six games starting five of them. Allen hurt his right elbow in his last game and the Bills consider him week to week. His injury is not surprising as defenders sacked him 21 times which is still 7th in the NFL. Bills GM Brandon Beane advised that it is a baseball type injury that leads to “Tommy John” type surgery so there’s the possibility he misses the rest of the season.

Josh Rosen (1st/10 overall) He became the Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback after his debut in week 3. Rosen hurt his left toe in their blowout loss to the Denver Broncos on October 18th. However, he played in the Cardinals victory over the San Francisco 49ers passing for two touchdowns. He now has former Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich newly promoted as offensive coordinator. We will see how this duo fares in the second half of the season.

Lamar Jackson (1st/32 overall) Jackson has appeared in all eight Baltimore Ravens games. The Ravens continue to insert Jackson in situations as a run-pass-option quarterback. In their last game, Jackson completed 4 of 5 passes including a touchdown. His one miss was to a wide-open receiver, but he was off balance as he threw the ball. So far this season, Jackson has 129 yards rushing on 23 carries. We can expect Jackson to play 8-10 snaps per game for the rest of the season to give opponents a distinctive look to the less mobile Joe Flacco.

Quarterback Summary

With Mason Rudolph inactive, he cannot be compared to the other rookie quarterbacks. Four of the five first round picks have become starters. However, injuries have caused Josh Rosen and Josh Allen to miss time. Allen is still out. Lamar Jackson is still a gadget player but may give defenses fits. None of the quarterbacks have been spectacular but have flashed their potential in the first half of the season.


Rookie receiving stats through week 8 of the regular season (stats via Pro Football Reference):

Name G Snaps Snap% RECs Yds Y/C Y/G Catch % TDs
James Washington 6 215 43.09 5 49 9.8 8.2 35.7 1
DJ Moore 7 196 42.98 18 281 15.6 40.1 75.0 1
Calvin Ridley (I) 7 256 53.89 27 392 14.5 56.0 77.1 6
Courtland Sutton 8 376 69.24 17 324 19.1 40.5 45.9 2
Dante Pettis (I) 5 136 25.28 3 96 32.0 19.2 37.5 1
Christian Kirk 8 333 74.16 31 410 13.2 51.3 67.4 2
Anthony Miller (I) 6 253 51.74 14 161 11.5 26.8 48.3 3
DJ Chark (I) 8 199 37.48 12 159 13.3 19.9 52.2 0
Michael Gallup 7 258 57.85 10 190 19.0 27.1 45.5 1

Synopsis of each listed wide receiver for the first half of the 2018 season:

James Washington (2nd/60 overall) Washington was inactive in the Pittsburgh Steelers last game. He only has five receptions in six games played and an extremely low catch percentage. Washington has only 14 targets with five coming in the home opener loss to Kansas City Chiefs. He has ten special team snaps for the season. He will play in more games this season but his connection with Ben Roethlisberger must improve.

DJ Moore (1st/24 overall) The Carolina Panthers are starting to target DJ more in the last few games. He was targeted eight times in his first 4 games played and 16 in the next three. Also, he carried the ball six times for 85 yards. As a result, Moore’s special team snaps have decreased from 60% to 40.11% as his offensive production increases. He does have six punt and two kickoff returns. But, they average a pedestrian 5.3 & 22.0 yards per return, respectively.

Calvin Ridley (1st/26 overall) Ridley caught 27 of 35 passes thrown to him in the first half of the season. His six touchdown receptions rank 4th in the NFL. Matt Ryan will continue to target him in the second half of the season. The Atlanta Falcons only played Ridley in eight special team snaps, but he averaged 25 yards on his two kickoff returns.

Courtland Sutton (2nd/40 overall) Sutton averages 19.1 yards per reception which is 3rd in the league. His 4.6 targets a game likely to increase with the Broncos trade of Demaryius Thomas. He has 27 special team snaps but for now it looks like his primary role will be as a receiving threat.

Dante Pettis (2nd/44 overall) Pettis injured his knee on a punt return in week 4 resulting in three missed games. Dante played in game 8 but was only targeted once though he did return a punt. The San Francisco 49ers waived Anquan Boldin, and this may result in Pettis getting more involved with the offense in the second half of the season.

Christian Kirk (2nd/47 overall) Kirk leads all the rookies with 31 receptions so far. He is on track to complete the season with 62 catches for 820 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Arizona Cardinals have also used him as their primary punt returner. He has returned ten punts for 78 yards. His longest was 44 yards.

Anthony Miller (2nd/51 overall) Miller hurt his shoulder in his third game. He missed the Chicago Bears 4th game going into their bye week but appears to have recovered. He has scored touchdowns in two of three games since his return.

DJ Chark (2nd/61 overall) Chark only has 23 targets but half have been in his last two games. The Jacksonville Jaguars play him in over half of their special team snaps. His last kick return was for 29 yards but has averaged only 12.7 yards on his three returns this season.

Michael Gallup (3rd/81 overall) The Dallas Cowboys got Amari Cooper before the trade deadline. It will be interesting to see how this affects Gallup’s production. He did score a touchdown in his last game and has averaged 19.0 yards per catch. With Cooper lined up on the outside, he may attract attention that will free up Gallup.

Wide Receiver Summary

So far, James Washington does not compare favorably to the other rookie wide receivers. He has the least receiving yards per game and the second least receptions to the injured Dante Pettis who missed three games. All fit well into their offensive schemes with the Cowboys looking to free up Gallup with their acquisition of Amari Cooper. Washington is 7th on the Steelers in the number of targets. Even Ryan Switzer has more. The question is whether Washington can develop into the Steelers third WR in the second half of the season.


Rookie safety stats through week 8 of the regular season (stats via Pro Football Reference):

Name G Snaps Snap% INTs PDs FF FR Sacks Solo T Assists
Terrell Edmunds 7 450 91.28 1 2 0 1 0 18 6
Minkah Fitzpatrick 8 408 74.73 1 4 0 0 0 21 22
Derwin James 7 447 98.68 1 6 0 0 3.5 33 11
Jessie Bates III 8 587 98.0 3 5 0 0 0 41 19
Justin Reid 8 400 73.39 2 5 0 0 0 29 8
Ronnie Harrison 8 180 34.68 0 0 0 0 0 16 7

Synopsis of each listed safety for the first half of the 2018 season:

Terrell Edmunds (1st/28 overall) Statistics don’t always tell the full story. Edmunds has started seven of eight games played with the injury to Morgan Burnett. He appears solid in coverage and has one interception and a forced fumble. He has played the 6th most special team snaps on the team with 120. Burnett is back playing so it will be interesting to see how Edmunds is used as the season progresses.

Minkah Fitzpatrick (1st/11 overall) Fitzpatrick has shown versatility by playing safety and cornerback. He has 43 solo and tackle assists. Also, he intercepted one pass. He has played almost 25 % of the Miami Dolphins special team snaps. Pro Football Focus says, “Minkah Fitzpatrick has allowed the lowest NFL passer rating among cornerbacks to see at least 100 snaps in coverage so far this season.”

Derwin James (1st/17 overall) James continues to do it all. He’s made 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six pass breakups and an interception. Right now, he is a strong candidate to be defensive rookie of the year. The Los Angeles Chargers are pleased as he has been a big contributor to their defense.

Jessie Bates III (2nd/54 overall) Bates leads the top drafted rookies with three interceptions including a pick-6. His 587 defensive snaps easily top the other rookies. Bates bolsters the Cincinnati Bengals secondary and is looking to continue a strong second half without suffering the rookie wall.

Justin Reid (3rd/68 overall) Reid has Houston Texans fans smiling. In their last game, Pro Football Focus said he “earned a career-high grade of 90.3 for his spectacular play against the Dolphins on Thursday.” He has two interceptions and is credited with five passes defensed. In addition to his 400 defensive snaps he has another 146 on special teams.

Ronnie Harrison (3rd/93 overall) Harrison was one of the Jacksonville Jaguars detained by London police for not paying a bar bill. Not good publicity for a rookie. He did have three tackles against the Philadelphia Eagles. Harrison has started five of eight games played and getting more playing time due to injuries in their secondary. He has played about half of the Jaguars special team plays.

Safety Summary

Terrell Edmunds comes out in the middle of a strong safety pack. Fitzpatrick and Derwin James who were selected well ahead of him are playing lights out. Jessie Bates who the Bengals picked in the 2nd round is very solid as is Justin Reid. Would love to see an analysis with tape of these players side by side to see how Edmunds stacks up. The difficulty in direct comparisons is that teams may use their players differently which impacts expectations.

Your Music Selection

In the 2018 Memorial Day Weekend: Steelers Friday Night Five Questions, I committed to play songs that Steelers Depot respondents suggested might be the new Steelers anthem if Renegade by Styx was ever replaced. Here is entry 28 of 45 from Steel Realist Paul: Hell Bells by AC/DC.

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