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Rookie Report: Steelers vs Colts

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 positives and negatives of that game, areas to watch or work on and clips to support what I’m sharing. Hopefully, this will shed some insight into some things you may or may not have seen.

Week 12 – Indianapolis Colts

Active Players

#8 Kenny Pickett (Round 1) – 69 offensive plays, 20-28, 174 yards, 71.4 Comp%, 3 sacks for 23 yards, 6 carries for 32 yards

Pickett improved his record as the starter to 3-4 and probably had his best game so far. On the “need some work” side, there were some minor hiccups in the third quarter and a missed throw in the end zone. On the “things are looking good” side, his play on the final touchdown drive was very impressive.

Right from the start, he looked comfortable.  He was decisive with the ball and was getting it out quickly. In the short passing area, he has looked really good. His scrambles were good decisions and effective. There was a scramble on the first drive that he could have taken a shot deep to George Pickens. The receiver had broken free to the corner but Pickett may have already made up his mind to run.

The receivers could have helped him more. A high but catchable ball to Steven Sims and drops by Diontae Johnson and Pickens cost him some yards and a touchdown. He suffered three more sacks. The first could have been avoided with better anticipation of an intermediate route. The second sack was an unblocked player. The final sack was due to good coverage and a collapsing pocket.

He had a shot at a score to Pickens in the second quarter. It was just out of reach and could have been thrown a little quicker. The third quarter began with four throws no higher than the receivers’ knees. The pockets were clean on the first two. There was also a rollout and slide to his left leading to low throws. May have been a slight mechanical issue coming out of the break.

The final scoring drive had some of his best work. Very accurate throws on a drive leading to the go-ahead score. Undeterred by a dropped touchdown by Johnson, we found out after the game he called for the play that ended up being the winning score.

These three throws on the final drive were some of his best on the season. The first falling to his left with a man in his face was particularly impressive.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 520 offensive snaps, 175-265, 1,600 yards, 66.0 Comp%, 3 TD, 8 INT, 23 sacks for 154 yards, ANY/A 3.98, 35 carries for 195 yards, 3 TD, 3 fumbles, 2 tackles

#14 George Pickens (Round 2) – 54 offensive snaps, 6 targets, 2 receptions, 57 yards, 1 2pt conversion

Pickens has been on the field for 79% of the plays this season and this game was no different. He has had at least six targets per game in seven of the last nine contests. The play calling did not lead to over usage on deep routes this week like it did last week. His route tree was more balanced with Go, Fade, Dig and Curl routes leading the way.

His first reception came on a quick Out route where he broke back inside to convert the first down. Incidentally, 25 of his 36 receptions have led to first downs this season. The second reception was the deep ball on another pretty throw by Pickett. Pickens showed off his hands and body control to twist, make the catch and get his feet down. His final reception was in the third quarter on a Dig route. The throw was low but he made a nice catch. On the two point conversion, he also did well on the scramble drill to find space, get in the quarterback’s view and make the play.

His missed targets came on a pretty move to get open in the end zone but the throw was out of his reach. A third-quarter Dig route dealt with another low throw that he got his hands on but couldn’t contain. The other target was a drop on a Comeback route where he made the catch but it came out after he hit the ground.

As a run blocker, he had a couple of nice blocks on the safety on runs by Najee Harris and Anthony McFarland. He had a poor effort and execution on the fly sweep by Gunner Olszewski. A better effort could have led to a bigger gain.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 599 offensive snaps, 2 special team snaps, 59 targets, 36 receptions, 510 yards, 2 drops, 3 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD, 1 tackle

#83 Connor Heyward (Round 6) – 10 offensive snaps, 17 special team snaps, 1 solo tackle

Heyward saw double-digit offensive snaps for the fourth time this season. Despite six teammates running the ball and 10 making receptions, he was the only skill player without an offensive touch.

Of his 10 plays, six were passing plays without receiving a target. He often lined up in the slot or on the wing. Four of his routes were shallow crossing routes. He also ran a quick Out and a Wheel route.

As a run blocker, on three of the runs, he put himself in a good position on second and third-level defenders but didn’t need to engage. On his final snap, he executed an effective block on the third down run by Derek Watt to convert the first down late in the fourth quarter. He came across the formation in motion and put the defensive end on the ground. Watt was able to cut inside of this block.

On kick coverage, his hustle got him the tackle on the big return to start the second half.

This was a block he has struggled with in limited opportunities so this was good to see a strong rep.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 95 offensive snaps, 197 special team snaps, 8 targets, 7 receptions, 76 yards, 6 tackles, 2 solo

Inactive for Week 12 – #93 Mark Robinson (Round 7), #30 Jaylen Warren (UDFA)

Practice Squad – #68 William Dunkle (UDFA PHI), #87 Rodney Williams (UDFA DEN), #96 David Anenih (UDFA TEN), #45 Master Teague (UDFA CHI)

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

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