Some call the preseason meaningless, and rightfully so, but you can’t argue just how valuable the preseason is for rookies on a football team. These green horns can sharpen their skills, get acclimated to the professional game and become more comfortable with their responsibilities and assignments during these exhibition games.
Throughout the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field Sunday, they had several contributions from their rookies, and it is time we break down just how the ‘rooks’ did in the first Rookie Review of the 2017 season.
2017 Draft Picks
1. T.J. Watt — The Steelers’ top draft pick got plenty of snaps for the second straight week, and although he didn’t have any sacks, like his two sack performance in Week 1 of the preseason, Watt was able to put more plays on tape to be dissected. Watt did register 4 tackles, 2 solo and had one tackle for loss, but he was extremely active on the field and showed off his hustle on every snap. Watt also got washed out on a couple running plays, and failed to set the edge on a few more, but this is all a learning process for the rookie. In my opinion, Watt is “as advertised” so far in his rookie season.
2. JuJu Smith-Schuster — Did not play due to bone bruise in leg.
3. Cameron Sutton — Did not play due to lower body injury.
3. James Conner — Finally able to get back on the field after a shoulder injury early in training camp, Conner had his ups and downs. Once settling in, Conner ran the ball with authority and showed the burst and explosion he displayed at Pitt before injuring his knee and being diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t all good for Conner, and it is clear he left several plays on the field, primarily in the receiving game, but it was an overall good start for Conner as he totaled 98 yards on 20 carries for a 4.9 yards per carry.
4. Joshua Dobbs — Dobbs, who made some plays in Week 1, certainly had his share of head-scratchers Sunday. His final stat line summed up his overall play. 10/19, 70 yards, 3.7 yards average, one interception and no touchdowns. Dobbs still has to learn some of the simplest things of playing quarterback at the NFL level, like when to throw the football away and play for another day. Either way, Dobbs will likely be the 3rd string quarterback when all is said and done, and he has a long way to go before the team can consider him to be Ben Roethlisberger’s primary backup.
5. Brian Allen — While Cameron Sutton can’t get on the field, Allen is taking advantage of the repetitions. I still consider him to be a long-shot to make the team, but he could be the perfect player to learn for a year on the practice squad before being a legitimate threat to see the field with regularity. Allen didn’t make the stat sheet, but it didn’t mean he hasn’t shown flashes throughout the preseason.
6. Colin Holba — When you don’t notice a long snapper, it is a good thing. However, it was cool to see Holba down a punt inside the Atlanta 5-yard line to at least give the 6th round pick some face time.
7. Keion Adams — Did not play due to shoulder injury.