The Pittsburgh Steelers are not dependent upon major contributions from their rookie draft class. With that being said, they do have a couple of rookies who have been turning heads in training camp, and if that were anything to base decisions off of, look like they will be players who will be able to make an impact in year one.
In fact, that is what a number of players, and even some coaches here and there, have said about both second-round wide receiver Chase Claypool and third-round outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, both of whom enter a position at which there are at least two or three players who are ahead of them on the depth chart.
In spite of the great enthusiasm displayed by their early performances—even head coach Mike Tomlin has said that they have shown that they belong—general manager Kevin Colbert came down from the top rope with a bucket of ice water while appearing on The Fan yesterday.
Asked if the organization was comfortable putting them on the field in the season opener, he said, “no, we’re not, because we haven’t seen them in real competition. You can do something great on the practice field against your own team”.
“If Chase does something good, well maybe the defense is lacking. If Alex does something good, maybe the offense is lacking”, he added. “So until you get into a competitive situation, we really don’t know what we have, but really you don’t have a choice”.
A big part of the discussion is the fact that this hasn’t been the typical offseason. Rookies had no rookie minicamp, no Spring workouts, no general access to the team facilities, the professional weight room, the film room, the camaraderie. All they had was the past several weeks of training camp, and not even preseason.
With that said, Colbert understands that there will come a moment in the season when one of these young players will have to play, for whatever reason that might be. “At some point, they’ll be asked to contribute”.
“When and where of how much, Coach Tomlin will determine that, really, as that game unfolds”, he continued. “I mean, he has evidence from this setting. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is, and we have to make the most of it, as do those young players”.
It certainly isn’t ideal, but the important thing to remember is that all 32 teams are in the same boat. Their veterans haven’t been through the full traditional offseason process, either. Tom Brady is learning a new system down in Tampa without any exhibition games, which he usually plays in. These issues are universal in the league. It’s about trying to handle them better than your peers.