Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Midseason Rookie Review

Top 3 Rookie Draft Picks

Last year, I compared the statistics of the Pittsburgh Steelers top three draft picks with their contemporaries selected by other teams in the 2018 NFL draft. This season, we’ll track Devin Bush, Diontae Johnson, and Justin Layne to see how they stack up against their draft class.

I posted a rookie tale of the tape after Week 1. Here is how the Pittsburgh Steelers first three 2019 draft picks stack up statistically against their contemporaries after Week 8. I will update this again at the end of the season. Let me know if there are other players you want tracked against these Steelers rookies in the comments section.


Name G Snaps Snap% INTs PDs FF FR Sacks Tackles TFL/QBH
Devin Bush 7 447 91 2 3 0 4 1 59 4
Devin White 4 192 39 0 1 0 0 0 23 1
Josh Allen 8 358 68 0 0 2 0 7 23 20
Rashan Gary 8 126 24 0 0 0 1 1 10 3
Jahlani Tavai 7 287 56 0 0 1 0 1 21 4
Ben Banogu 7 116 26 0 1 1 0 1.5 8 5

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player through preseason:

Devin Bush (1st/10th overall): Steelers fans should be happy with the Steelers first rounder. Devin Bush impacted several games. His six takeaways currently lead the entire NFL. Bush is not perfect. He does have 9 missed tackles but 59 total tackles. In addition to his 2 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries, Bush has defensed 3 passes and recorded a sack.

Devin White (1st/5th overall): The first linebacker picked in the 2019 draft has only played 39% of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive snaps. He injured his knee in the second game and missed three games. He had a slow start in his first game back after a bye when he was stiff armed to the ground. But he is quickly gaining ground. He has the 2nd best tackle per snap of this group with 8.3 just behind Devin Bush at 7.6 tackles per snap.

Josh Allen (1st/7th overall): The Jacksonville Jaguars must be incredibly happy with their first pick of the 2019 draft. Josh Allen has sacked quarterbacks 7 times in 8 games. He has forced two fumbles and 12 quarterback hits and 8 tackles for a loss. The Florida Times Union says Allen has “been as good as advertised.” His 7 sacks and 20 combined are way ahead of the other LB’s in this group. Only six other players in the NFL have more sacks.

Rashan Gary (1st/12th overall): The Green Bay Packer has played in all 8 of their games but only 24% of their defensive snaps. He is not yet a starter and though he shows flashes of power and burst, it has not translated into tackles. He is averaging a tackle every 12.6 snaps. For a top 12 pick, I expect the Packers are looking for more production.

Jahlani Tavai (2nd/43rd overall): Tavai has started 3 of 7 games the Detroit Lions played. He recorded a sack in his first game but that is it so far. He does have 6 missed tackles for a 22.2% miss rate. (compare to Bush who has 9 misses but a 13.2% rate).

Ben Banogu (2nd/49th overall): The Indianapolis Colts linebacker played his most snaps (36) of the season in their victory over the Broncos last week. He sacked Joe Flacco to force a fumble at the end of the game to seal the victory. The Colts have needed help on the edge and believe they have found it. Be warned Pittsburgh.

Linebacker Summary

Few linebackers were selected in the first two rounds, so Devin Bush may be compared to some rookies playing on the edge. Bush is at the top of his class so far. Josh Allen, playing on the edge, has a big edge in sacks and quarterback hits as he is paid to rush the quarterback. Bush has shown the mobility to shut down runs before they explode for big yardage. Cover receivers and has a nose for the ball. Devin White may give chase if he stays healthy in the second half of the season.


Name G Snaps Snap% RECs Yds Y/C Y/G Catch % TDs
Diontae Johnson 7 257 60 25 296 11.8 42.3 65.8 3
Deebo Samuel 6 256 51 18 187 10.4 31.2 72.0 2
A.J. Brown 8 270 53 22 348 15.8 43.5 64.7 3
Mecole Hardman 8 298 58 20 374 18.7 46.8 62.5 4
JJ Arcega-Whiteside 8 162 29 2 14 7.0 1.8 28.6 0
Parris Campbell 5 122 25 10 62 6.2 12.4 71.4 1
Andy Isabella 7 41 8 2 8 4.0 1.1 100.0 0
D.K. Metcalf 8 437 78 23 402 17.5 50.3 51.1 4
Jalen Hurd 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Terry McLaurin 7 378 83 28 458 16.4 65.4 60.9 5
Marquise Brown 5 217 42 21 326 15.5 65.2 53.8 3

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player through preseason:

Diontae Johnson (3rd/66th overall): Mike Tomlin says, “He’s a guy that is getting better every week.” He set career highs with 5 receptions and 84 yards against the Dolphins. He also had his longest catch of his short career, a 45-yard touchdown that was mostly yards after he catch. He could have 60 receptions if he keeps pace with his performance so far.

Deebo Samuel (2nd/36th overall): The San Francisco 49ers have played Deebo in about half of their offensive snaps. He has scored two touchdowns. One in the air back in September and in his last game took a pitch and ran 20 yards for a score on the ground. The acquisition of Emmanuel Sanders will help Deebo’s development.

A.J. Brown (2nd/51st overall): The rookie Tennessee Titan has a good rapport with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He has 138 yards after the catch averaging 6.3 YAC per reception. His 348 receiving yards is 3rd best among the rookies.

Mecole Hardman (2nd/56th overall): He has seen a dip in his targets since Tyreek Hill returned to the lineup in week 5. However, Kansas City Chiefs must be happy. He has scored 4 touchdowns out of 20 receptions. That’s a TD every 5 catches! He leads all the rookies with 215 yards after the catch averaging 10.8 YAC per reception. His 18.7 yards per reception is 5th best in the NFL as of week 8. He also has the 3rd longest reception in a tie with Marquise Brown for 83 yards. Yet he might just be the second best in this group.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside (2nd/57th overall): Arcega-Whiteside has only two games with significant offensive snaps. He only has 2 receptions out of 7 targets. He was last targeted for a pass back in week 3 although he has been active in all eight Philadelphia Eagles games this season. He will not get much playing time unless there is an injury in the Eagle’s wide receiving corps.

Parris Campbell (2nd/59th overall): Campbell missed two games due to an abdominal issue. He only had one target which he did not catch in his first game returning from his injury. The Colts believe he has a lot of potential. We will see if he gets much action against the Steelers this Sunday.

Andy Isabella (2nd/62nd overall): The Arizona Cardinals have buried Isabella on their depth chart. He caught his only two targets of the year against the New York Giants in week 7. Last week he played just one offensive snap. He has an extremely poor drop rate of 14.3 per target but a small sample size. Not a factor so far this season.

DK Metcalf (2nd/64th overall): Seattle Seahawks Metcalf scored two of his four touchdowns last week against Atlanta. Yet, only had 13 receiving yards. His best game in receiving yards was week 1 when he gained 89 yards on 4 catches. He does have a 6.7% drop rate per target. Only Deebo Samuel (8.0) and Arcega-Whiteside are higher (14.3) among this group.

Jalen Hurd (3rd/67th overall): The 49ers Jalen Hurd is on injured reserve due to a back injury. Kyle Shanahan reported earlier this week that he suffered a setback and that he is not confident Hurd will return to play this season. Emmanuel Sanders is now wearing his uniform number 17.

Terry McLaurin (3rd/76th overall): The chaos that is the Washington Redskins may have found a wide receiver. McLaurin caught 5 passes for 125 yards including a 69-yard touchdown catch in his first game. Against the Miami Dolphins he had another 100-yard receiving performance plus two TD’s in a 17-16 victory between winless teams at the time. His 5 TD receptions are currently tied for 2nd best in the NFL. E leads this group of receivers in receptions, receiving yards, receiving yards per game and TD’s.

Wide Receiver Summary

I am comparing Diontae Johnson to wide receivers selected in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. So, Marquise Brown is not included though I did add a stat line for him. At the midway point, McLaurin who was at the bottom of the group in terms of draft position has emerged at the top of this group. Mecole Hardman is right behind McLaurin. His YAC per catch is very impressive. DK Metcalf and AJ Brown are solid contributors. Only two of the receivers in this group were available when Diontae Johnson was drafted. Jalen Hurd has been injured, but I’m sure many folks salivate at the thought of having McLaurin on the Steelers roster. He’s been playing with a mix of mediocre quarterbacks and still producing. Let’s see if Diontae continues to improve and join some of these other receivers at the top of the heap instead of the middle.


Name G Snaps Snap% INTs PDs FF FR Sacks Tackles TFL/QBH
Justin Layne 3 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Deandre Baker 8 491 91 0 2 0 0 0 32 0
Byron Murphy 8 558 99 0 5 0 0 0 45 1
Rock Ya-Sin 7 374 84 0 1 0 0 0 28 0
Sean Murphy-Bunting 7 137 28 1 3 0 0 0 7 0
Trayvon Mullen 7 140 30 0 1 0 0 0 7 0
Joejuan Williams 3 22 5 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Greedy Williams 3 172 36 0 0 0 0 0 10 0
Lonnie Johnson 8 385 73 0 5 0 0 0 27 0
David Long 2 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Jamel Dean 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player through preseason:

Justin Layne (3rd/83rd overall): So far, Layne has not played a single defensive snap. He has just 18 special team snaps in his three appearances. Senior secondary coach Teryl Austin said that Layne, “He knows he’s got to work, and he’s working.” By all accounts, the Steelers organization is happy with Layne and have treated his rookie season as a redshirt year. Let’s see if he is salted into the defensive lineup in the second half of the season.

Deandre Baker (1st/30th overall): Baker has started 7 of 8 games and played in 91% of the New York Giants defensive snaps. He has had an uneven season getting beat on several passes that have gone for touchdowns.

Byron Murphy (2nd/33rd overall): Byron Murphy has started all eight Arizona Cardinals games playing 99% of their defensive snaps. His 5 passes defensed is tied for the lead among the rookie cornerbacks. Murphy has 45 tackles with 38 being solo tackles. Right now, he may be the best of the top cornerbacks drafted in the first three rounds in 2019.

Rock Ya-Sin (2nd/34th overall): Referees penalized Ya-Sin five times in the Indianapolis Colts game versus Denver Broncos. Ya-Sin was the first plyer drafted by the Colts in 2019. The management believes in Rock. He has more defensive snaps than any other Colt defender this season and started 5 of 7 games played up to now.

Sean Murphy-Bunting (2nd/39th overall): The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used Murphy-Bunting for special teams most of the season. But in the last three games he has played more defensive snaps including getting to start one game. He has the only interception among this group.

Trayvon Mullen (2nd/40th overall): The Oakland Raiders played Mullen a few times then sat him down. However, in his last game he was a starter for the first time and allowed just two receptions and almost had an interception. He may be someone to watch in the second half of the season.

Joejuan Williams (2nd/45th overall): He has only been active in three of eight New England Patriots games. Joejuan recorded a tackle and defensed one pass against the New York Jets. In that game Bill Belichick played him 15 in defensive snaps. He only has 22 snaps on the season. A work in progress.

Greedy Williams (2nd/46th overall): The Cleveland Browns missed Greedy who injured his hamstring in week 2. He did not play until this past week when he got to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. Brady picked on him a bit, but Greedy Williams looks healthy and looking to build on his three games played so far.

Lonnie Johnson (3rd/54th overall): The Houston Texans announced that Johnson would not travel to London to face the Jaguars. He suffered a concussion in their game against the Raiders. He had started 6 of 8 games. He defensed 5 passes and made 28 tackles in 385 snaps.

David Long (3rd/79th overall): The Los Angeles Rams did not play Long until week 7. He’s played just 9 defensive snaps in two games played. Not much to report until he gets more playing time.

Jamel Dean (3rd/94th overall): Dean’s progress with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was hampered by preseason injuries. Then he hurt his hip flexor in week 2. He’s had brief appearances in the first two games then in weeks 6 & 8. But he has played mostly special teams with just 3 defensive snaps.

Cornerback Summary

We are at midseason and the Cardinal’s Byron Murphy appears to be the top rookie cornerback drafted in the first 3 rounds in 2019. Others, including Deandre Baker, Rock Ya-Sin, and Lonnie Johnson are getting significant playing time. As for Justin Layne, we may have to wait until next season to see how he stacks up against his contemporaries. All but one of the featured cornerbacks were drafted ahead of Layne.

Your Music Selection

I always like to include a bit of music. Continuing on my  country kick after watching the Ken Burns PBS series called Country Music gere is Big City by Merle Haggard. And then there is Ernest Tubb & the Texas Troubadours performing Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin.

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