The Steelers began their rookie mini-camp on Friday, which, quite frankly, was two weeks after I thought it was already over (I don’t know mini-camps).
Anyway, as it pertains to the actual drafted portion of the rookie class, you can still feel that love, can't you?
That familiar infatuation one feels at the beginning of a relationship.
For example, receiver Diontae Johnson, the third-round pick and Antonio Brown clone from Toledo. He seems very humble from what I’ve seen—even though he’s a receiver—and is already a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year—at least according to Pro Football Focus who lists Johnson ninth on its list of 10 possibilities:
“Johnson goes to a Steelers club that heaved the ball all over the yard last season—Ben Roethlisberger’s 675 passing attempts were 36 more than any quarterback in the NFL,” says PFF’s Michael Renner. “A whopping 164 of those targets are up for grabs with the departure of Antonio Brown. Now Johnson won’t replace Brown’s production, but he should replace his role within the offense with a very similar skill set.”
Damn, I’m excited. And let’s not forget Steeler fans and Johnson are still very much in that honeymoon phase. That means Johnson will never show his quarterback up on the field. He’ll never show him up on social media. He’ll never complain about a lack of targets. And, most importantly, he’ll never, ever, ever do a touchdown celebration dance.
Obviously, when it comes to Devin Bush, the number one pick Pittsburgh traded up 10 spots to draft, he’ll fit in with the defense right away and quickly become the play-maker at inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was for many seasons.
What about cornerback Justin Layne, the other third-round pick? He’s a handsome devil, isn’t he? Just look at those cheekbones. Is that an aspiring NFL player or actor Brandon Michael Hall, the star of the new hit show, God Friended Me? And let’s not forget about the value Pittsburgh got by selecting Layne in the third round—or one round later than many had him going. In my opinion, Layne could be the steal of the entire draft.
Let’s move on to Benny Snell Jr., a running back out of Kentucky that Pittsburgh nabbed in the fourth round. Did you see Snell’s interview on Friday? What a smile. What charisma. And did you hear what he said? Did you hear him describe “Benny Snell football”? He mentioned things like “downhill running,” “four-minute offense” and “running out the clock.” To most Steeler fans, this is the equivalent of a woman getting flowers sent to her at work. In other words, pure romance.
No way will Snell get suspended for anything or make crappy rap songs. In my opinion, he’s the steal of the draft.
Thanks to Gronk (the recently-retired Rob Gronkowski), I automatically assume every big, white tight end will be an athletic freak of nature that runs over defensive backs and outruns linebackers on the way to the end zone where he’ll then do an annoying touchdown celebration a la Travis Kelce. Therefore, Zach Gentry, a fifth-round pick out of Michigan, won’t be someone the Steelers try to hide on their roster or practice squad. The 6’8” rookie will quickly earn an awesome nickname, such as “The Not So Gentry Giant.” College production, be damned. In my opinion, Gentry is the steal of the draft.
What about outside linebacker Sutton Smith, a sixth-round pick out of Northern Illinois? At 6’1” and 234 pounds, Smith doesn’t have the desired measurables for the position, but neither did James Harrison...if you know what I mean? With 29 sacks over his final two seasons at the collegiate level, Smith’s resume is obviously quite impressive, and in my opinion, he is the steal of the draft.
I could also go into great detail about the Steelers final three draft picks—Ulysees Gilbert III, Isaiah Buggs and Derwin Gray—but I don’t want to give you a cavity from all of this sweet love that I’ve been gushing about.
This is the perfect time for the Steelers 2019 draft class. Everyone has potential. Everyone is humble and/or charismatic. Everyone shows promise.
Everyone has hope for a brighter future.