TRACKING 2022 STEELERS DRAFT CLASS
For the past few seasons, I compared the Pittsburgh Steelers top draft picks against rookies drafted in nearby rounds and playing similar positions selected by other teams. Last year, I tracked Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, and Kendrick Green with their contemporaries from the 2021 NFL draft class. This season, we’ll track Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and DeMarvin Leal to see how they stack up. Plus, a summary of their draft classmates.
The charts cover the first eight weeks of the 2022 season for the top three Steelers draft picks. I’ll summarize the rest of the class at the end. All statistics extracted from the Pro Football Reference.
Let me know if there are other players you want tracked against these Steelers rookies in the comments section.
|Matt Corral||Injured Reserve|
Synopsis of each player:
Kenny Pickett (First/20th overall) Kenny Pickett scored two touchdowns in relief of Mitch Trubisky in the week our loss to the Jets. He has been the Steelers starter over since. His eight interceptions and 12 sacks stand out. Although several interceptions bounced off receivers hands. The Pittsburgh offensive scheme has not yielded many points. Following the Bye week, fans will be looking for Pickett to throw the ball downfield but decrease the number turnovers.
Desmond Ridder (Third/74th overall) Desmond Ridder has not played yet. But similar to Kenny Pickett earlier in the season, fans and pundits calling for Ridder to start in front of the inconsistent Marcus Mariota. It is just a matter of time before Falcons coach Arthur Smith makes the call to the bullpen.
Malik Willis (Third/86th overall) Malik Willis started his first game in week eight. A 17-10 Tennessee win over Houston. He completed six of just ten passes in a run-heavy offensive scheme. Ryan Tannehill is due to return from his ankle injury. So, we may have to wait to see how Willis stacks up against Pickett until he gets more playing time.
Matt Corral (Third/94th overall) The Panthers placed Matt Corral on injured reserve due to a left foot injury suffered in a preseason game. That move ended his season before it started.
Bailey Zappe (Fourth/137th overall) Did Bill Belichick and New England find another late round quarterback destined to be a star. The Patriots did win the two games Zappe started while Mac Jones out with injury. And he has thrown five TD passes along with three interceptions in four games played. He leads the group with 70.7% completion rate and 195.3 passing yards per game. For now, Mac Jones is back at the helm. But depending on how the Patriots fare, Zappe may get another shot at quarterbacking the team.
Sam Howell (Fifth/144th overall) Sam Howell has yet to play an NFL snap. Coach Ron Rivera named him the backup to Taylor Heinicke week seven. Up to that time, he had not been named to the active roster. Washington has two wins and a loss with Heinicke starting. It may take an injury for Howell to get his chance. Otherwise, he’ll have to wait until next year.
Right now, Kenny Pickett and Bailey Zappe are the only two quarterbacks with 200 or more snaps. I have Zappe over Pickett with an interception thrown about every 30 pass attempts compared to Pickett throwing one every 20 drop backs. Plus, Zappe has five touchdown passes compared to just two for Pickett. We’ll see if Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder get any substantial playing time in the second half the season. Second best in a weak crop is not exactly exhilarating.
|Name||G||Snaps D/ST||TGTs||RECs||Yds||Y/R||Y/G||Catch %||Drop%||Points|
|John Metchie||Non-Football Injury|
Synopsis of each player:
Christian Watson (Second/34th overall) Christian Watson most targets (4) and offensive snaps (40) in week one of Green Bay’s season. That’s not the trend you want to see with a rookie receiver. He leads the group with an 8.3% drop rate on his low 12 targets. Watson concussed in week eight against the Bills but returned to practice and played in week nine. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers struggling this season. We’ll see how Watson does in the second half of the season.
Wan’Dale Robinson (Second/43rd overall) Wan’Dale Robinson played in just four games through week eight. He’s had just 16 targets in those game. But caught 75% to lead the group in catch percentage. He’s been fighting a knee injury that has limited his play. However, he made three big catches including a 17 yard touchdown reception in the Giants 20-17 win over the Ravens.
John Metchie (Second/44th overall) John Metchie announced that he would miss the 2022 season after doctors diagnosed him with leukemia. Praying he is able to defeat the cancer and return to ball at some point.
Tyquan Thornton (Second/50th overall) Tyquan Thornton only has eight receptions on 15 targets through week eight. But one is for a touchdown and another he scored on the ground. Bill Belichick making use of his rookie wide receiver. He played 61 of 78 snaps in week eight due to DeVante Parker injury. We’ll see if he starts getting more than the 2-5 targets per game as the season rolls forward.
George Pickens (Second/52nd overall) George Pickens leads the groups in targets and receptions through week eight. He’s started half the games and easily leads the groups in offensive snaps. He’s made some wicked catches. Hopefully the Pickett to Pickens connection grows stronger in the second half of the season.
Alec Pierce (Second/53rd overall) Alec Pierce now a regular starter for the Colts. He leads this group with 53.3 receiving yards per game. Also, leads with 373 receiving yards and is the Colts leading receiver. He now has an interim head coach with the firing of Frank Reich. Let’s see if his strong start continues for a woeful Colts team.
Skyy Moore (Second/54th overall) Skyy Moore playing about a quarter of the Chiefs offensive snaps. He’ also returned 12 punts in his first eight games. He leads the group with 16.7 yards per reception and has no drops through week eight. But he has only six receptions and muffed to punt returns. The second half of the season should prove whether that is just rookie jitters.
Wide Receiver Summary
George Pickens and Alec Pierce at the top of this group. Their receptions and receiving yardage far exceed the rest of the pack. However, one area they have not distanced themselves from is scoring. Both the Steelers and Colts offenses are in disarray. Can that be sorted out in the second half of the season or will one or more of the other second round receivers overtake them?
Synopsis of each player:
Travis Jones (Third/76th overall) Travis Jones playing in place of Brandon Williams. He’s started three of six games played after sitting out the first two. He has a sack and two quarterback hits along with nine tackles. He looks to continue his progress from week nine forward.
Alex Wright (Third/78th overall) Alex Wright started four of eight games played this season. That includes the Browns game against Pittsburgh was in on two tackles. He’s second in the group with 14 tackles. Plus, he’s defended two passes and one tackle for a loss. He’s held up as a replacement for injured players like Jadeveon Clowney and Chase Winovich.
DeAngelo Malone (Third/82nd overall) DeAngelo Malone has played about an equal number of defensive and special team snaps. He’s mostly in a reserve role but generally plays 11-18 defensive snaps a game with a sack and seven tackles in his first six games. Two of his tackles are for a loss. A steady contributor in a transitioning Atlanta team.
DeMarvin Leal (Third/84th overall) DeMarvin Leal played in the Steelers first five games. He made nine tackles and topped three passes. Unfortunately, he injured his knee during practice and placed on injured reserve. He hopes to return this season. But for now, the Steelers third round pick has his season on hold.
Cameron Thomas (Third/87th overall) Cameron Thomas playing at outside linebacker got his first sack in the Cardinals matchup versus the Seahawks. He’s played in the Cardinals first eight games and is playing 42% of the team’s defensive snaps. The Cardinals look to have Thomas and draft classmate Myjai Sanders contributing to the second half of the season.
Zachary Carter (Third/95th overall) The Bengals worked Zach Carter into the lineup making him a starter in week four with both D.J. Reader and Josh Tupou out with injuries. He leads this group of third round linemen with 16 tackles.
Myjai Sanders (Third/100th overall) The Cardinals sat Myjai Sanders as a healthy scratch the first four games. In his second game he recorded his first sack with just eight defensive snaps. Arizona began increasing his defensive snaps in the next few games. A slow but steady start.
Defensive Lineman Summary
DeMarvin Leal’s injury pushes him down toward the bottom of this group. Despite showing flashes including the ability to tip passes at the line of scrimmage. Right now, I have him just ahead of Myjai Sanders. But if Sanders gets more playing time and increases production, Leal will be rock bottom. He may have to wait until 2023 to prove his worth relative to his defensive line draft classmates.
Day Three Selections
Calvin Austin (IR); Connor Heyward; Mark Robinson; Chris Oladokun (Cut); Jaylen Warren (UDFA)
The Steelers had to place wide receiver Calvin Austin back on injured reserve after he aggravated a foot injury during the 21-day window. This ends the fourth round pick’s rookie season before it even started.
Tight End Connor Heyward drafted in sixth round, played in all eight games prior to the Steelers Bye week. He has four tackles on special teams. Young Heyward has played on offense every game started with just a few snaps. But in week six he played 30 offensive snaps in place of injured Pat Freiermuth. So far, he’s caught five passes for 67 yards.
Seventh round linebacker Mark Robinson played in one game playing just five special team snaps. He has been a healthy scratch for the remainder of the games. Let’s see if he gets some playing action in second half of the season.
Another seventh rounder. Quarterback Chris Oladokun did not make the roster. Kansas City signed him to their practice squad one week after Pittsburgh released him in the preseason.
Jaylen Warren signed by Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent. The hard running Warren has carried the ball 29 times for 153 yards. Plus, another 12 receptions for 88 yards. Many want to see him get more opportunities as Najee Harris has failed to gain footing halfway through the season. Warren chipped in three tackles on special teams.
An undrafted free agent showing up the day three selections. Heyward the only one playing regularly.
STEELERS DEPOT ROOKIE ARTICLES
Here are links to recent Steelers Depot Articles on the Steelers 2022 Draft Class and Undrafted Free Agent Jaylen Warren:
Kenny Pickett: Matt Canada Wants Pickett to See Errors on Tape by Joe Clark
George Pickens: WRs Coach Frisman Jackson Believes George Pickens Might be an Alien by Joe Cammarota
DeMarvin Leal: Austin Says ‘Returns Were Good’ From DeMarvin Leal by Matthew Marczi
Calvin Austin: Calvin Austin Has Foot Surgery by Alex Kozora
Connor Heyward: Connor Heyward Earns Praise from Trubisky by Josh Carney
Mark Robinson: LB Mark Robinson Logs First NFL Snaps by Alex Kozora
Chris Oladokun: Report: Chiefs Signing QB Chris Oladokun to Practice Squad by Alex Kozora
Jaylen Warren: No increase in Practice Reps for Jaylen Warren by Josh Carney
Your Music Selection
I always like to include a bit of music. The 2022 draft class has a lot to prove for the rest of the season and beyond. One draft pick has shown he belongs in the NFL as a regular starter. Here is Prove it On Me Blues by Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey.