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2018 Rookie Class Offering Surprises, Good And Bad

We are now three quarters of the way through the 2018 regular season, meaning that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie draft class has had 12 games to impress upon themselves the urgency of the game of football at the highest of professional levels. The results so far have been interestingly mixed, so I thought I would pause today to give a rundown on where we’re at.

The Steelers’ first draft pick, first-round safety Terrell Edmunds, has played significantly more than expected, largely by necessity. Morgan Burnett has not been healthy enough to be a regular starter, which has resulted in Edmunds being on pace to see over 1200 snaps this year.

He has gone through a lot of growing pains in the process as an underclassman with some refinement left to add to his game, but he has gotten better over time and is coming off a pretty strong game against the Los Angeles Chargers, including his first sack.

The story is quite the opposite for second-round wide receiver James Washington, who has only managed to catch about a third of his limited targets on the year, eight for 77 yards and a touchdown. While only one of the incompletions was a drop, his route-running and rapport with his quarterback have been evidently lacking, in spite of the fact that about half of his receptions have been rather impressive tough grabs.

While quarterback Mason Rudolph is seasoning on the bench this year, as anticipated, the other third-round pick, Chukwuma Okorafor, has shown well for himself. He’s seen dozens and dozens of snaps as a tackle-eligible, and while he was passed over for the primary swing tackle job in favor of Matt Feiler, he did start one game and handled himself well overall.

Both of their fifth-round picks had good games on Sunday, with safety Marcus Allen making his NFL debut and logging double-digits snaps as the team’s dimeback. He held up in coverage, though I thought his performance against the run in the fourth quarter was lacking.

Jaylen Samuels, meanwhile, looks to make his first career start tomorrow in place of James Conner, who is out with an ankle injury. He played 17 snaps on Sunday, the final being a 10-yard reception for his second touchdown of the year.

The only blemish would be seventh-round pick Joshua Frazier, the nose tackle who was beat out for the roster spot by fifth-year veteran Daniel McCullers. But making up for that has been the finds of two rookie linebackers, outside backer Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (who just made his debut) and inside backer Matthew Thomas (who is now on the practice squad after spending the first 11 games on the 53).

Things could have gone better in some cases, Washington’s most notably, but overall this is a rookie class that the Steelers have gotten a good amount of work from, which they can use to build upon heading into their critical second seasons in 2019.

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