The play of the rookie class is a major story for the Pittsburgh Steelers, for reasons that I would imagine are exceedingly obvious for anybody who follows the team. They have seven rookies who are contributing significantly this year, and that includes four players who are full-time starters on the offensive side of the ball.
While we have spent plenty of time discussing and dissecting the contributions of first-round running back Najee Harris and second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, both of whom scored for Pittsburgh on Sunday, their next two draft picks—center Kendrick Green in the third round and tackle Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth—are just as important to this team’s success or failure. And head coach Mike Tomlin likes what he has seen from them in multiple arenas.
“Their play is one thing, and it’s getting increasingly more steady and more consistent and good over the course of play”, he told reporters yesterday during his pre-game press conference. “That’s a reasonable expectation of talented young people. I’m equally as impressed with their demeanor”.
Coming out of a bye week, playing in the division on the road against a team you’re looking up at in the standings, the table was set for the Steelers, and for these rookies, to show who they are, and Tomlin likes the answer he’s gotten.
“You get in hot AFC North road venues and things of that nature, playing against the type of people that they played against, and it was cool to have conversations with them, and to see them engaged, and to see that the moments weren’t too big for them, and they could communicate”, he said.
“Not only communicate what was happening on the field, but just communicate in general”, he continued. “They’re built for it. Oftentimes, through the draft process, you work your tails off to find out whether or not they’re built for it, but you don’t really get confirmation of that until you’re working with them. I think we’re getting confirmation, particularly in the two-minute dimension”.
Both of the rookies have taken their lumps in every game they’ve played this year. Truth be told, Moore more than had his hands full on Sunday with the Browns’ Myles Garrett in pass-rushing situations, losing numerous reps against the Pro Bowler.
But they will be better for every loss they take. They’re learning, and it’s showing. That’s the sort of thing Tomlin is talking about when he says that they’re getting confirmation that these young linemen are built for the NFL environment. Part of it is learning and adapting and growing from failure.
Over the course of the past month, the offensive line, at the start of the season seemingly a ragtag bunch of nobodies and has-beens, has been settling in and providing the offense with a stronger platform with which to work. There is still a lot more room to grow, but they continue to trend in the right direction.