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Rookie Report: Steelers vs Buccaneers

Throughout the season following each game I will be taking a look at the rookies and how they fared each week. This will consist of thoughts such as the positive and negatives from that game, areas to watch or work on and clips to support what I’m sharing. Hopefully, this will shed some insight on some things you may or may not have seen.

Week 6 – Tampa Bay

Active Players

#8 Kenny Pickett (Round 1) – 37 offensive snaps, 11-18 for 67 yards, 1TD, 1 sack for 12 yards, 2 rushes, 16 yards

Pickett started his first home game of his career and had an impressive first drive. He completed all five of his passes, had a key ten yard scramble and threw a touchdown pass. It was one of the cleanest opening drives the Steelers have put together in a while.

Tampa Bay’s play was to test Pickett and they blitzed him on nine drop backs. On those plays he was five of six for 64 yards. The longest gain 27 yards on the play that knocked him out of the game. He was sacked once for minus 12 yards and two plays were nullified by penalties.

After that first drive, Pickett was average completing just 6 of 13 passes for 34 yards. Many of his throws were uncatchable either low, behind or over receivers. You have to expect some growing pains from the rookies. Having good streaks and poor streaks within games is to be expected.

The good news is his decision making and pocket presence to hit hot receivers or take off and run have been pretty good.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 143 snaps, 55 or 83, 513 yards, 1TD, 4 INT, 4 sacked for 29 yards, 9 carries 41 yards, 2 TD, 1 fumble

#14 George Pickens (Round 2) – 53 snaps, 6 targets, 3 receptions, 27 yards, 1 carry for 1 yard

Pickens played his normal amount of snaps ranging from 45 to 57 this season. He received at least six targets for the fourth consecutive game. Once they stopped using him on deep routes for a vast majority of time he has been producing more. He was used most often on Comeback (5), Dig (4) and Curl (4) routes.

In this contest his six targets included uncatchable balls on an Out route, Comeback route and corner route. His three receptions came on a Stop route, a quick In route and a deep comeback route. While he showed strong hands on these receptions they were not conducive to yards after the catch. I counted just two on his receptions.

In the run game he whiffed on his block on the first run of the game but was a little better the rest of the way. He was also used on an end around but received no blocking and was lucky to get a yard out of it.

He seems to have a good connection with Pickett and this should keep him consistent if not on an improving arc over the rest of the season.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 295 offensive snaps, 1 special team snap, 34 targets, 20 receptions for 277 yards, 1 carry for 1 yard

#83 Connor Heyward (Round 6) – 30 offensive snaps, 15 special team snaps, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 49 yards

With Pat Freiermuth out this week Heyward saw his snaps go way up. Of his 30 snaps about three quarters of them were passing plays. They moved him around the formation quite a bit lining him up inline, the slot, wide and one snap at the fullback position.

The majority of his routes were on the short level including Curls, Shallow Crosses and In routes. He did have a handful of routes on deeper levels including Seam, Corner and Dig routes.

He received three targets in the game catching both throws that made it to him. His first target was on a quick Out showing good hands to hold on while being hit right after the catch. Target number two was a seven yard Out route but the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The final target was the big play; a 45 yard reception on a Seam route. He was uncovered and gained 30 yards after the catch. Linebackers were able to really slow him off the line on some plays but he did have a nice swim move on a safety to get open.

He is on the line of scrimmage to the left and will swim over the safety on a corner route leaving the defender stumbling.

In the run game, he did a solid job blocking second level defenders but had his struggles with the defensive ends. Hopefully, he’ll get stronger and work on his technique and show some improvement along the way.

Here are a couple examples of slide block attempts by Heyward. The first he allows the defender inside to get in on the tackle. On the second, the defender puts a good hit bending him backward.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 52 offensive snaps, 105 special teams snaps, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 61 yards, 2 assisted tackles

#93 Mark Robinson (Round 7) – 5 special teams snaps

Robinson got to see his first action of his career and was used on kick coverage. On his second kickoff coverage, he raced down the field, avoided the block and got the first hit on the returner. He didn’t get credit on the tackle. This is player you wouldn’t want to get in front of when he is in a full sprint down the field.

He was unsurprisingly excited for the opportunity. Let’s hope he earns some more.

Here is Robinson on kick coverage. He is lined up on the numbers to the left.

2021 Regular Season Totals – 5 special teams snaps

#30 Jaylen Warren (UDFA) – 20 offensive snaps, 10 special team snaps, 2 carries for 2 yards, 1 solo tackle

Warren continued his work as the primary third down back on offense. Over the course of the game he was given the ball just three times. One was erased by a penalty. His first carry was a fourth and one conversion on the opening drive. He has been given multiple opportunities on short yardage plays the last two weeks and is having success. His other carry he got hit two yards deep in the backfield and twisted forward for a yard.

In the passing game, he didn’t receive any targets and all of his routes were check release routes. Those routes consisted of Swing, Sneak, Flat and Stabs in the short area. He whiffed on his first pass block lunging at the blitzing linebacker.

He was asked to block a defensive end on a fly sweep and it didn’t go well. One of my favorite things Warren does his hustle to the ball. When a pass goes to another player he will sprint to the spot looking to make a block if a teammate can break a tackle.

On specials he was on kick coverage and kick return. He was credited with solo tackle on the same kick off that Robinson hit the returner.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 126 offensive snaps, 56 special teams snaps, 21 carries, 96 yards, 9 targets, 7 receptions, 46 yards, 2 drops, 1 fumble, 2 tackles, 1 solo

Inactive for Week 2 – None

Practice Squad – #68 William Dunkle (UDFA PHI), #87 Rodney Williams (UDFA DEN), #96 David Anenih (UDFA TEN), #17 Scott Nelson (UDFA SEA)

Reserve/Injured – #98 DeMarvin Leal (Round 3), #19 Calvin Austin (Round 4), #30 Carlins Platel (UDFA)

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