With the NFL Draft and NFL Schedule release in the rearview, CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson broke down the top five potential rookie matchups in the 2022 season. Wilson listed George Pickens and Calvin Austin III against Dax Hill in Week 1 and Week 11, as well as a potential matchup between rookie quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder in Week 13 as two of the top five matchups.
“They’re gonna have George Pickens, their second round pick, the enormous wide receiver out of Georgia who tore his ACL last spring, had a really good season the time he was on the field, and then Calvin Austin, who’s the exact opposite at about 5’7.5’ and he’s an absolute burner,” Wilson said about the two Steelers rookie receivers. He also compared Pickens to current Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool.
As for Hill, Wilson was impressed with his versatility:
“He can play in the slot, he can play outside, he can play in deep center field.”
Hill is a guy that a lot of people had mocked to the Steelers before the draft. The Bengals have some experience at safety with Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, so it remains to be seen where they line Hill up. It will definitely be fun to see if Hill plays corner and is lined up across from either Pickens or Austin to see which rookie is able to come out on top in that matchup. Pickens and Hill played each other in college during the 2022 College Football Playoff, and let’s just say Pickens did not take it easy, knocking Hill to the ground with a textbook block. However, Pickens didn’t contribute much as a receiver that game, only catching one ball for nine yards. With two matchups against the Bengals, the rookie receivers against the rookie defensive back will be a nice side plot to the AFC North rivalry.
As for the Week 13 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, Wilson believes there’s a “pretty good” chance both Pickett and Ridder are starting for their respective teams. Pickett will be competing with QB Mitch Trubisky for the Steelers’ starting job, while Ridder is competing with QB Marcus Mariota for the Falcons job. Wilson points out that Mariota is injury prone and hasn’t started a game since 2019, and believes his leadership could push him into a starting job. If both Pickett and Ridder were to start, it would be the first rookie vs. rookie quarterback matchup for the Steelers since Week 14 of the 2019 season, when Devlin Hodges beat Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals 23-17 on the road.
With the influx of rookie talent on offense, the Steelers will have a lot of intriguing young talent to watch. Along with Hill in Cincinnati, the Ravens will have a rookie safety in first-round pick Kyle Hamilton, so there are four potential intra-division matchups that will pit the Steelers’ rookie receivers against a rookie first-round defensive back. Watching the Steelers’ rookies line up against their peers will be fun to follow as the season progresses.