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 20-12 win over the New York Giants in East Rutherford, NJ, 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.
1. T.J. Watt — Could you have drawn a better picture for Watt’s first NFL action? His third play he registers his first sack. Yes, it was a gift, but a sack is a sack. Next Giants possession, and Watt’s next play, he gets another sack as he is left untouched in the backfield. Again, not the pristine pass rushing moves fans want to see, but production is production. Watt was more impressive as he showed his athleticism against the run, and had another quarterback hit and pressure later in the first half.
The one aspect of Watt’s game which impressed me was how the game didn’t look too big, or too fast, for the first round pick. You get the feeling he is only going to get better with the more reps he receives.
2. JuJu Smith-Schuster — The former USC receiver had been impressive in training camp, and his debut was short lived. Smith-Schuster had an end-around for nine yards and a reception for four yards before suffering a concussion trying to make a tackle off one of Joshua Dobbs’ interceptions. The hope is Smith-Schuster returns quickly, because he looked dynamic.
3. Cameron Sutton — Did not play due to lower body injury.
3. James Conner — Did not play due to shoulder injury.
4. Joshua Dobbs — As Watt’s night started about as perfect as you could imagine, Dobbs was the complete opposite. However, the caveat to Dobbs’ game was how he settled in after two early interceptions. He finished the game with 8/15 for 100 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions, but he should have had another touchdown on a beautiful play where he escaped pressure and threw a dart to Xavier Grimble. The play was called back after offensive holding was called.
Dobbs showed how resilient he is, and he showed he is able to put a poor start behind him and focus on plays ahead. The second preseason game might have Dobbs not seeing time until the second half, but I feel fans will see a different, and more confident, quarterback on the field against the Atlanta Falcons.
5. Brian Allen — Allen saw snaps towards the end of the game, and didn’t make any eye-popping plays, at least compared to his fellow rookies, but he did make the stat sheet. Allen had a pass defense and one total tackle. The reviews on this rookie have been the tall, and raw, cornerback is just that — raw. Hope for improvement in the coming weeks.
6. Colin Holba — As a long snapper, you are best when you go unnoticed. Holba’s snaps seemed on point, and his coverage skills were nothing to write home about. So, I guess you could say he played well.
7. Keion Adams — Did not play due to shoulder injury.