Grading a rookie class in the preseason is easy. Almost all of the rookies, and undrafted free agents, get plenty of playing time in those games where the starters are rested and the backups have a chance to prove their worth on the field.
The regular season is a different beast, and if a team has a significant number of rookies who are playing, it usually equates to a team which won’t be very good, or a team who drafts extremely well.
The Pittsburgh Steelers would fall into the latter of those two categories, and although not all of their draft picks played in the game Sunday vs. the Browns, it is worth discussing the performances of those who did.
Round / Player
1 — T.J. Watt
Can you ask for more from an NFL debut? Watt tallied 2 sacks, an interception, 2 tackles of losses, a pass defense, 7 total tackles, and 2 quarterback hits. For some rookies, that is a season worth of stats. For Watt? Just another day at the office.
2 — JuJu Smith-Schuster
Smith-Schuster made the stat sheet, but for all the wrong reasons. He had zero catches on zero targets, and the only time his name was mentioned was due to two holding penalties, which put the team behind the chains. Smith-Schuster did register one kick return for 4-yards, so at least he has that going for him. For as great as Watt’s debut was, Smith-Schuster’s was as mundane as ever. Hopefully the former USC Trojan steps up his game in Week 2.
3 — Cameron Sutton
Placed on Injured Reserve
3 — James Conner
Conner was behind Le’Veon Bell on the depth chart for the first time since entering the NFL, and his touches took a hit because of it. Nonetheless, Mike Tomlin did put Conner in the game to get him some repetitions in the first half, and he registered 11 yards on 4 carries. Not mind-bending statistics, but in defense of Conner, Bell wasn’t doing much behind the offensive line Sunday either. Conner’s biggest contributions to the team this year, barring injury, will be on special teams.
4 — Joshua Dobbs
Inactive on game day.
5 — Brian Allen
Inactive on game day.
Overall, the Steelers rookie class of 2017 didn’t do poorly in Week 1 vs. the Browns. Sure, you would have hoped for someone like Smith-Schuster to play better, but Watt’s overall body of work transformed the entire class’s grade for the day.