Rookie Report – Steelers vs Ravens

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 17 – Baltimore Ravens

Active Players

#8 Kenny Pickett (Round 1) – 70 offensive snaps, 15-27, 168 yards, 1 TD, 55.6 Comp%, 2 sacks, 15 yards, 5 carries for 2 yards

Comeback Kenny made another appearance his week and this game-winning drive was better than the last.

Production was hard to come by for the vast majority of the game. He dealt with tight coverage and pressure from the pass rush on several throws. He displayed very good mobility to escape several potential sacks. While moving laterally left and right and keeping his head up he found options in the scramble drill on several plays. He made a couple of really tough throws moving to his left and connecting with Pat Freiermuth.

On the winning drive, he came up with three really nice throws. The first of those was moving to his left to Freiermuth. Next was a pinpoint throw on a Post to Steven Sims. The final throw displayed touch and accuracy to find Najee Harris.

The final drive was really impressive. I wish we could see more of that play in the first 55 minutes of the game. Hopefully, he will get the opportunity and take advantage of that opportunity to create more plays down the field.

Make sure to check out his best throws of the game.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 731 offensive snaps, 232-360, 2,209 yards, 64.4 Comp%, 6 TD’s, 9 INT’s, 4.52 ANY/A, 26 sacks, 176 yards, 52 rushes, 236 yards, 3 TD, 4.5 YPC

#14 George Pickens (Round 2) – 51 offensive snaps, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 14.5 YPR

With a run-heavy attack, Pickens was not utilized as much as we might like. Just three routes (Go, Fade, Comeback) represented about 60% of his routes run. Half of his targets were not on initial routes but on the scramble drill working back to the quarterback.

His first target came on a red zone fade. It’s a route that has a low percentage of success and this one was knocked away. His second target came on the scramble drill. He ran a deep route up the right sideline and seeing Pickett scramble he did the right thing and worked back toward the quarterback. Unfortunately, he stepped out of bounds. The second time he did that this year.

His first catch came on a third down Dig route where he showed off his hands pulling a ball that was just about past him for a first down. He stepped over the defender while looking down at him after the play. Luckily, he didn’t draw a silly penalty for taunting. The final target and reception came again on a deep route turned comeback in the scramble drill.

Here is his fantastic third-down catch.

A modest stat line but in a game dominated by the run it can be expected. The game plan seems to alternate from week to week on using him too often on deep routes minimizing his targets.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 836 offensive snaps, 3 special team snaps, 78 targets, 49 receptions, 729 yards, 14.9 YPR, 3 TD, 3 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD

#98 DeMarvin Leal (Round 3) – 27 defensive snaps, 5 special team snaps, 3 tackles, 2 solo

To combat the running game of the Ravens, the Steelers used a lot of 4-4 defense with four down linemen and four linebackers. Leal got to make his second start of the season and had a solid game against the run.

He spent all of his time at defensive tackle or defensive end, often moving to mirror offensive shifts. Against the run, he employed different tactics to try to gain an advantage. He showed a nice swim over the extra tackle to get in the gap. He attacked from two and three-point stances. His always high effort was on display and he did a solid job to work through traffic to get to the ball. He was credited with only three tackles but was around the ball often.

Here is his best play stretching it out to the right sideline to make the tackle.

Against the pass, he had just a few pass rush snaps and unfortunately it was more of the same. His hand placement is good and he gets his hands up in throwing lanes but has yet to produce much pressure on the quarterback. My favorite snap was him in coverage. A 290lb defensive lineman covering a 305lb fullback in the flat.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 160 defensive snaps, 36 special team snaps, 12 tackles, 7 solo, 1 TFL, 3 pass breakups

#83 Connor Heyward (Round 6) – 12 offensive snaps, 13 special team snaps, 1 assisted tackle

Heyward saw minimal snaps on offense and the majority was on running plays. He did run a few routes in the game and they included a shallow cross, curl and whip route.

In the running game, he was essentially used on two types of plays. One was as a lead blocker on jet sweeps. He did a solid job of mirroring the defender on one play and on a couple of others, the jet sweep motion was a decoy.

The other running play is a Gap run where his job is to come across the formation and block the end man on the line of scrimmage to open a cut-back lane. He used a cut block successfully on his first attempt. On two other attempts, there were solid attempts to block or shoulder the defender. There was also one good execution to occupy the defender allowing Harris to cut inside the block for a good gain.

On special teams, he added another assisted tackle on a kickoff in the first quarter.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 149 offensive snaps, 269 special team snaps, 13 targets, 9 receptions, 106 yards, 1 TD, 1 rush, 21 yards, 9 tackles, 3 solo

#93 Mark Robinson (Round 7) – 26 defensive snaps, 5 special teams snaps, 7 tackles, 2 solo

Robinson not only got the most playing time of his young career but also his first start. Like Leal, he too was a part of the 4-4 defensive front. He was primarily tasked with keying the running back and attacking downhill.

He didn’t waste much time making an impact with tackles on the first three plays. The first play was interesting. While he did not read the play well (going the opposite way of the ball), he recovered quickly to put a good hit on the running back. He finished with a career-high seven tackles and he had opportunities for others. He didn’t completely wrap on a few attempts missing out on getting the runner down.

Reading blocking schemes and taking on blocks is still a work in progress for him. There were a couple of times he hit holes too soon before the running back committed. There were a couple of plays where he could have taken on blocks more effectively to close gaps. The good thing is he looked better as the game went on and the physicality was great to see.

He saw some coverage reps including man coverage in the flat and zone coverage in the middle of the field. He doesn’t look incredibly comfortable dropping in coverage but that can come with time. There was a play later in the game where he started to drop to his right and picked up the receiver coming across the field. He quickly reversed direction to get under the route.

He hasn’t been playing the position long and it shows, hence his limited playing time this year. However, with his playing style and aggressiveness, he will become a force if he can master the mental side. He will be fun to watch.

Check out the Film Room on the first start of his career.

2021 Regular Season Totals – 33 defensive snaps, 10 special teams snaps, 7 tackles, 2 solo

#30 Jaylen Warren (UDFA) – 28 offensive snaps, 9 special team snaps, 12 carries, 76 yards, 6.3 YPC, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, 7.3 YPR

Warren continually takes advantage of the opportunities he is given. He received 15 touches on 28 plays setting season highs in carries, yards rushing and yards from scrimmage.

In the running game, he was used on zone and counter runs primarily. They added in a couple of jet sweeps as well. His overall running style has been impressive to watch. He is patient and doesn’t rush into gaps. He is able to read and set up his blocks well. His cuts are quick and sharp and he can fit through small gaps. His legs are constantly churning trying to move forward. The first jet sweep produced a big gain that included a hesitation to freeze the defender and add a bunch of yards. A savvy move by the young ball carrier.

In the passing game, he was used on Crease, Flat and Swing routes. He pulled in all three of his targets making solid gains after the catch. Reception number one was on a check down in the crease where he added eight yards after the catch. The next target started as a swing pass to the left but worked back inside on the quarterback scramble. He made a nice adjustment with his hands on a high throw before adding six more yards. His final reception came in the flat to convert a third down with six YAC.

In pass protection, he whiffed on his first block with Roquan Smith sidestepping him. He was more under control on the second attempt and made a nice block. There was also a nice pickup working across the formation. He really has been impressive as a rookie in this area.

2022 Regular Season Totals – 311 offensive snaps, 118 special teams snaps, 71 carries, 343 rushing yards, 1 TD, 4.8 YPC, 29 targets, 25 receptions, 207 yards, 8.3 YPR, 1 fumble, 4 tackles, 3 solo, 1 fumble recovery

Inactive for Week 2 – None

 Practice Squad – #68 William Dunkle (UDFA PHI), #87 Rodney Williams (UDFA DEN), #96 Mika Tafua (DAL), #17 Scott Nelson (UDFA SEA)

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

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