Thanks to drafting a number of high pedigree guys with plenty of experience at the collegiate level, the Pittsburgh Steelers could get significant return on investment right away in 2022 from its draft class that features quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Chris Oladokun, wide receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, H-back Connor Heyward, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, and linebacker Mark Robinson.
Offensively, there’s a very good chance that Pickett works his way into the starting role quickly this summer, beating out the likes of veterans Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, while Pickens and Austin III should be able to get onto the field immediately and contribute in the passing game, while Heyward could take on a role as an H-back under second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada, serving as a third tight end and a potential option in the passing game as a rookie.
Defensively, Leal should be able to work his way into the rotation along the defensive line, allowing the Steelers to monitor snap counts for the likes of Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Stephon Tuitt, should he return for the 2022 season. Though Robinson and Oladokun appear ticketed for the practice squad at this time, the ROI for the draft class should be really promising for the Steelers’ draft class this season.
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso believes the Steelers’ rookie class will have one of the biggest impacts in the NFL this season, ranking Pittsburgh’s class at No. 7 in his top 10 ranking of rookie classes that will be the most impactful.
“The Steelers are kinda-sorta a team in transition, right? But Mike Tomlin’s never had a losing season as head coach, and Pittsburgh’s not a town accustomed to a losing football team,” Trapasso writes. “The last time the Steelers were under .500 was 2003. With Pickett they get their quarterback of the future, although he’s in for a competition battle in training camp with Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. Pickett should pull away late.
“Pickens is a first-round talent who’ll exudes an alpha mentality and Leal was a first-round caliber prospect before a vastly disappointing 2021 where he felt like a genuine tweener. The Steelers love those types up front on defense. Austin can be the low-volume, splash-play type because of how blisteringly fast he is. GM Kevin Colbert left the Steelers with a strong, decently foundational draft.”
There’s a lot to like about the Steelers’ rookie class overall, especially with the top four picks likely being able to get onto the field right away and play meaningful snaps for the Steelers this fall.
Of course, the class will be judged by Pickett overall in the end, based on his successes or failures. But there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2022 draft class overall for the Steelers. Pickens and Austin III fill significant holes in the wide receiver room, while Leal gives the Steelers a high-ceiling talent along the defensive line that coach Karl Dunbar can develop. As for Pickett, getting a potential franchise quarterback at No. 20 overall could turn out to be a significant steal longterm, should he be what the Steelers expect him to be.
Pittsburgh’s class edged out the likes of the Cleveland Browns (No. 10), Baltimore Ravens (No. 9) and Houston Texans (No. 8) in Trapasso’s rankings. The New York Giants’ draft class ranked No. 1 for Trapasso.