Throughout the season following each game I will be taking a look at the rookies and how they fared each week. This will consist of thoughts such as the positive and negatives from that game, areas to watch or work on and clips to support what I’m sharing. Hopefully, this will shed some insight on some things you may or may not have seen.
Regular Season Week 12
Devin Bush/ILB – Bush’s playing time was limited again this week playing 62% of the snaps. With more dime defense being played he isn’t used in that personnel grouping. He contributed with 4 tackles and forced fumble. He perfectly timed a blitz early in Q1 and was able to draw a holding call from a pulling lineman. I am continually impressed by his change of direction. He’s able to stop quickly and stay balanced to not overrun ball carriers. His biggest play was the forced fumble. He was in an unfavorable match up covering the Bengals WR1 Tyler Boyd. He missed with his right hand swipe but the left hand coming around the back knocked the ball out. This was an appropriate time for his first career forced fumble.
Here is the COD and balance by Bush. He stops on a dime to square up the runner and help on the tackle.
Diontae Johnson/WR – Johnson contributed in many ways against the Bengals. On offense he pulled in 3 of 6 targets and was open on another that ended up being an errant throw from Mason Rudolph. He showed good hands on a slant from Devlin Hodges in the third quarter. He did a nice job blocking on Hodges first pass to Jaylen Samuels sealing off the defender giving him space to run.
As the punt returner, he did a solid job getting 21 yards on 4 returns but he makes me nervous back there. Maybe his technique will improve with time but he had to reach for a couple punts in front of him including one that took him to the ground. He has to do a better job of centering himself under the ball. Also, there was one punt he returned to the near sideline and when he saw he was boxed in, it looked like he was going to try and backtrack instead of stepping out of bounds. He needs to not try to do too much as a return man.
Here is the punt where Johnson is on the sideline and it looks like he thinks about trying to backtrack. He should just step out here.
Justin Layne/DB – Artie Burns was inactive so Layne got a chance to be the gunner on punts and made a big play right away making an open field tackle on the first punt. On another punt in Q2 he made the returner alter his route and helped on the tackle.
He needs to improve defending the gunner on punt return. He struggled to get a hand on the gunner and on several occasions was left chasing down the field.
Benny Snell Jr. / RB – Snell returned after missing 3 weeks and looked strong throughout the game. Finishing with a career high 98 yards rushing he found the holes and was able to grind out yards moving the pile when nothing was there. He converted on 3 short yardage runs something the team has struggled with this season and showed smarts late in the game staying in bounds to keep the clock running. In the passing game, he made a nice catch on his lone reception on a floater on the first drive and twice picked up linebackers blitzing to give the QB more time. He brought stability to the position that had been lacking without James Conner.
Still looking for improvement on runs outside; being able to make a guy miss using a stiff arm. He doesn’t seem to be connecting with his hand being a bit early.
Blitz pickup by Snell on the linebacker mugging in the A gap. Knows his assignment, good form and shuts him down.
Isaiah Buggs/DL – Buggs was only given six defensive snaps this week but he made the most of them. He showed a good club while rushing the passer to move and offensive lineman and he got in the tackle column. He was able to stack and shed and OL and chase down the running back. He’s looked a little better each week.
Stack and shed for the tackle.
Devlin Hodges/QB – Hodges replaced Rudolph in Q3 and came out firing throwing passes on 3 of the first 4 plays. The highlight was the 79 yard TD pass to a wide open James Washington that brought energy back to the team seemed flat and frustrated. He showed mobility to get out of the pocket and threw the ball away when there seemed to be nowhere to go with it. We’ll need to get a look at the All 22 to see if he was making the right reads.
Kerrith Whyte/RB – Whyte took over the kick return duties and despite playing 15 fewer snaps had more touches on offense (6) than Jaylen Samuels (5). His one kick return was more of the same for the Steelers gaining 15 yards but the blocking was poor. On offense he wasted no time ripping off a 21 yard run on his first touch. He got burst that was evident and has quickness and lateral agility. He did a nice job to be patient and help set up his blockers especially behind David DeCastro on a late Q1 run.
There was one run I thought he should have turned up and gotten a couple yards but he tried to make a play. I can’t really fault him too much for that one run. Overall, it was a good debut.
Tucks in behind DeCastro showing himself to the inside to set up the block and then shows burst to the outside up the sideline.
Inactive for Week 11 – Zach Gentry/TE, Tuzar Skipper/OLB
Practice Squad – Derwin Gray/OG, Alexander Myres/CB
Reserve/Injured – Ulysses Gilbert III/ILB (Back)