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Rookie Report: Steelers vs Falcons

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 13 – Atlanta Falcons

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#8 Kenny Pickett (Round 1) – 65 offensive snaps, 16-28, 197 yards, 57.1 Comp%, 1 TD, 7.75 AY/A, 7 carries, 14 yards

Pickett now has his first winning streak in the NFL and the team has won three out of four. While he had his worst completion percentage of the season he does continue to look more comfortable. The game finally seems to be slowing down for him.

The protection for him has been better and for the first time as a starter he was not sacked. His accuracy was good and he made good decision on who he threw too. There was a couple plays were he could have gone to other receivers but not noticeably poor decisions. Prior to this game he had thrown the ball outside the numbers 61% of the time. In this game, that number was 43% showing bet use of the middle of the field.

I was most impressed by his work outside the pocket. He made very good decision on when to throw and when to run. On the move, his accuracy was really good. He has now played four straight games with no interceptions.

His anticipation is better on the intermediate level and now needs to improve on the deep level. He seems to be a bit hesitant on deep throws. I feel he is waiting to see the receiver open before throwing the ball. You want to see him anticipate and throw to spot and let his receiver go get it.

Overall, I felt it was a solid game for the young signal caller.

Here is a play were I would have like to see Pickett take a shot. Pickens at the top will run a corner route. If Pickett lets this fly before he makes the cut and puts it over the fifty yard line outside the numbers it could be a big gain.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 585 offensive snaps, 191-293, 1,797 yards, 65.2 Comp%, 4 TD, 8 INT, 5.2 AY/A, 23 sacks for 154 yards, 42 carries, 209 yards, 3 TD, 3 fumbles

#14 George Pickens (Round 2) – 44 offensive plays, 2 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards

Every receiver wants the ball thrown to his way. Pickens has already said earlier in the year he is always open. I bet most pass catchers feel the same way. He let his emotions show in this game with the lack of targets. The desire is good to see but he also needs to understand the situation.

His route tree showed good variance without a focus on any specific routes. Most often ran included the Curl, Corner and Fade. His first target came on a Comeback route that he didn’t come back on. If he did he may have had another catch. The second target seemed a bit forced to get him the ball on a quick curl on the sideline.

Here is his first target. He’s at the top and if looks like if he continue coming back toward the ball he could have made the catch.

There were a few deep routes that he could have received a target. He looked open on a Fade route on the ball Diontae Johnson dropped. He also ran a Fade on the end zone shot to Johnson. Pickett read the safety, which took a couple slide steps toward Pickens’ side and chose the other side. There was a corner route that also could have a chance with a throw leading him to the sideline.

On intermediate routes, Pickens is not quick getting into his breaks. Whether it’s to the inside or outside, he likes to slow-play the route to get the defender on his heels. The quarterback goes elsewhere with the ball because he can’t wait for Pickens. He could either speed up the routes or they should use him less on that level on Dig’s and Out’s.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 643 offensive snaps, 2 special team snaps, 61 targets, 37 receptions, 512 yards, 13.8 YPR, 2 TD, 3 carries for 24 yards, 1 TD, 3 drops, 1 tackle, 1 2pt conversion

#98 DeMarvin Leal (Round 3) – 7 offensive snaps, 4 special team snaps

After eight weeks dealing with and injury Leal was finally able to get back into the rotation. He was used primarily at the defensive tackle spots. All of his snaps came on passing plays.

He was a bit rusty as expected. The pass rush wasn’t really effective overall but he did have a nice bull rush in the third quarter. He did work to get his hands up in throwing lanes and his motor is always strong. He did hustle outside and use a basketball block on the game clinching interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 103 defensive snaps, 19 special team snaps, 9 tackles, 5 solo, 1 TFL, 3 passes defensed

#83 Connor Heyward (Round 6) – 14 offensive snaps, 16 special team snaps, 1 target, 1 receptions, 17 yards, 1 TD

This is a game Heyward will never forget. Back in the state where he grew up and his father played he caught his first career touchdown. A play that looked eerily similar to the first receiving touchdown of his father’s career. A memorable day for him and his family.

Heyward was in on five total passing plays with the touchdown being his only target. It came on an Out and Up route down the seam. His other routes include a Slant route and quick Out route.

He was on the field for nine running plays and you see he has been putting in work as a blocker. This was his best performance overall. He was used on slide blocks and base blocks and did a nice job to engage and mirror to give the ball carrier a chance. His sustain was much better. He had two very nice cut blocks on the edge and also a good block on a fly sweep to the outside.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 109 offensive snaps, 213 special team snaps, 9 targets, 8 receptions, 93 yards, 11.6 YPR, 1 TD, 6 tackles, 2 solo

#30 Jaylen Warren (UDFA) – 13 offensive snaps, 5 special team snaps, 1 carry, 5 yards, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards

Warren had his lowest offensive snap count since week three excluding the injury game in week 11. With Benny Snell getting more touches and the Warren injury that likely contributed to the lower snap count.

He received the call on one running play and made a nice run. He used a jump cut to the left followed by a spin move in the hole to fight forward for a five yard gain matching his season average. His lead blocking skills was on display on three fly sweeps. On each he got a good hit on a defender on the outside.

Here is one of those sweeps. You can see he and Heyward executing on this play.

He had a nice chip in pass protection on his first play. He also made a good read on a blitzing linebacker and slowed him just enough despite and premature lunge. As a receiver, his routes include the Flat, Stab, Leak and Screen routes from the backfield. He also motioned out and ran a Go route.

His first reception came on a check release up the middle becoming a Stab route where he added six yards after the catch. His other reception came on a 3rd and 18 that could have been better with the help of a block by Pickens who didn’t make an effort to block. He was still able to at ten yards after the catch. On the season he has 154 yards after the catch on 18 receptions.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 217 offensive snaps, 88 special team snaps, 39 carries, 195 yards, 5.0 YPC, 20 targets, 18 receptions, 151 yards, 8.4 YPR, 1 fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 3 tackles, 2 solo

Inactive for Week 2 – #93 Mark Robinson (Round 7)

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

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

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