The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph, and now Devlin Hodges? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who should win the Steelers’ rookie of the year award?
Outside of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Steelers haven’t often had much competition when it comes to the rookie of the year awards. Typically, if they got much of any impact at all from their rookie class, it would be largely confined to one player.
Like 2017, however, when the Steelers had T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the team has gotten strong contributions this year from its top two draft picks, in this case first-round pick Devin Bush and third-round pick Diontae Johnson. Bush is second on the team in tackles and Johnson has the most receptions and receiving touchdowns. Bush also has six takeaways.
With one game to go, these two players pretty much stand head and shoulders above the collective efforts of the rest of the class, though Benny Snell has had a few good games. He’s also missed time due to injury and his role has typically been minor, even if he has three games of 16 or more touches.
Whereas Bush’s impact has trailed off some in the second half of the season, Johnson is coming off a strong three-game stretch, outside of ball security issues, to finish out the rookie year strong. This in spite of the fact that he claims to have experienced the ‘rookie wall’.
As for Bush, he has been a difference-maker at times, and a rookie at others, which shouldn’t be surprising. He’s going to be a very good player, perhaps a Pro Bowler, but Johnson has put forth a quality season of his own right in 2019.