Five Pittsburgh Steelers rookie draft picks successfully made the 53-man roster. Four of them should be expected to dress, depending upon what they decide to do with Carlos Davis and the sixth defensive lineman spot. They haven’t exactly made it a habit over the years to dress more than five, and this doesn’t seem a likely time to start, though they do have an extra helmet. And Kevin Dotson isn’t likely to play as a backup offensive lineman, either.
What about the rest of them, however? Chase Claypool is the Steelers’ number four wide receivers. Alex Highsmith appears to be in competition to be the first outside linebacker off the bench, and is no worse than fourth overall. Anthony McFarland may be returning kicks, and is also a complementary homerun threat out of the backfield. What should we be looking at with this group?
“I think we have an anticipated contribution expectation that comes from what we’ve seen during this team-development process, but we also understand that we haven’t been in stadiums with these guys, and that is subject to change”, the Steelers’ head coach said on the eponymous Mike Tomlin Show.
“We’re speculating that the process could be slower for this class for obvious reasons”, he added. “All we have to go on is what we’ve seen, and we have been thoughtful about giving those guys opportunities to display what they’re capable of and to learn”.
The Steelers have used four-receiver sets in the past, certainly. Outside linebackers, edge rushers, have to come off the field during a game at some point, especially as the Steelers increasingly focus on them rushing the passer. And you need to return at least one kick, right? It’s quite realistic to expect all three of them to contribute in at least some small way. But it’s difficult to know before it all begins.
“We’re going in with some expectations, but we’ve got to be light on our feet, as we have to in a lot of these circumstances centered around the start of 2020, and be ready to adjust based on what we see and/or experience”, Tomlin said.
This has been an offseason unlike any other, and that has had an impact on the potentially preparedness of the rookie class, even if they appear to have generally held their own and shown well in the limited amount of opportunities given to them in the training camp environment of August.
How that ultimately impacts their opportunities to contribute inside of stadiums, that’s yet to be determined, and it largely rides on what they are able to show, how much trust they are able to establish with the coaching staff based on what they are able to deliver between the white lines.