The Pittsburgh Steelers have two high-pedigreed rookies in their starting lineup right now, with first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett under center and throwing the ball around to George Pickens, their second-round wide receiver. But they are still just 2-6 and have among the worst offenses in the league.
It’s perhaps no surprise then, at least from that perspective, that none of their rookies made The Athletic’s midseason All-Rookie team; although Pickett and Pickens did both receive honorable mentions.
Only three rookie quarterbacks have gotten significant playing time so far this season, including the Tennessee Titans’ Malik Willis. Both, however, served only as honorable mentions to Bailey Zappe of the New England Patriots, who, at least briefly, had people flirting with the idea of a quarterback controversy.
There isn’t much said, or to be said, for Pickett and Willis in the site’s write-up, noting only that they have room to catch up to Zappe in the back half of the season. Of the three, though, only Pickett is his team’s actual starter. He figures to have another nine games to state his case.
As for Pickens, his role should only continue to expand, especially in light of last week’s trade of starting wide receiver Chase Claypool. Some of those targets will be divvied up in ways that include other positions such as tight end, but you know the Georgia product is getting his.
He’s not on this list, however. Chris Olave of the New Orleans Saints and Garrett Wilson of the New York Jets make The Athletic’s All-Rookie team ahead of him, receiving one of four honorable mentions alongside Jahan Dotson, Romeo Doubs, and Alec Pierce.
There is, again, little added here on Pickens, noting only that he is “still a physical freak with a lot of great football in front of him”. But he’s already managed to make some really nice football plays in the first eight games of his career.
With 26 receptions on 43 targets for 338 yards and one touchdown, he has been contributing, especially if you compare those numbers to Pittsburgh’s other players. The unfortunate reality is that, by and large, they just aren’t moving the ball much.
As for Pickett, he has at least been accurate, completing 112 of 165 pass attempts. He’s only thrown for 962 yards, however, under six yards per attempt, and he has just two touchdown passes to eight interceptions. He has two rushing touchdowns, but also has a lost fumble.
I do hope that fans remain patient when it comes to judging rookies. Whether or not you were in favor of this or that player being drafted—I was not on board with drafting a quarterback in this past class, personally—you do yourself no favors by not at least being willing to see it play out.