The Pittsburgh Steelers were hit hard by the decreased salary cap in the 2021 season, and no side of the ball was hit harder than the offensive side of the ball. When you look at the Steelers having four major players/starters on offense who are rookies, it makes you wonder if these young players are that good, or if the Steelers are that thin at those specific positions.
Either way, the Steelers are getting some major contributions from players like Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, Najee Harris and Dan Moore Jr., and people are noticing just how impactful these players have been through the first seven games of the regular season.
The man who knows it the most has to be the same player who made a big difference when he was a rookie back in 2004. Yes, you guessed it, Ben Roethlisberger.
After the game Roethlisberger spent time talking to media and making it a point to outline just how great these rookies have played so far in this regular season, and especially in the Week 8 game on the road vs. the Cleveland Browns.
The first player Roethlisberger mentioned was rookie offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. It wasn’t as if Moore’s play was outstanding, but he held his own against one of the league’s premiere pass rushers in Myles Garrett.
“I’ve been joking with Dan all week, and I just told him now he can finally sleep.” Roethlisberger joked. “Myles is a special talent, and I told him after the game that he can take the tombstone from his yard but I’ll take the win. He’s special. I thought Dan did a great job. I think Myles had one sack, maybe two. I don’t even know. It’s tough to ask a rookie to go against that guy, and what he did today was pretty special. I can’t say enough about the line – run game and pass pro, they are the heart of this group.”
But it isn’t just Moore who is making plays, and possibly playing above the proverbial line. Three other players made Roethlisberger’s post-game comments, and they were Najee Harris, Kendrick Green and Pat Freiermuth.
“At the end of the game, they [the Browns] know we’re going to run the ball. We’re under center, they’re teeing off on him [Kendrick Green], and every snap was perfect. You can’t say enough about the way guys step up and make plays. Pat’s touchdown was spectacular. I really didn’t get to see it. I can’t wait to watch it. From what I saw of it, the quick view of it, I think it’s going to be pretty special.”
Without Eric Ebron in the lineup, the Steelers put all their faith and trust in Freiermuth. TO the fan base this seemed like a no-brainer, but the Steelers coaching staff had to show they trusted the former Penn State standout when it mattered most. Freiermuth delivered.
“Yeah, we talked about that on the sideline literally before that play.” Roethlisberger said when describing Freiermuth’s touchdown reception. “It was kind of a built play right there. Talking to Coach Canada and Sully [Mike Sullivan] and [Josh] Dobbs, we were actually trying to get Chase [Claypool] the ball just because of a look we thought we were going to get. Kind of last minute, Pat was like, “What do you want me to do?” I said to run what he ran. The guy covered Chase pretty well, and the guy had his back to Pat. We always say, “If a defender’s back is to the quarterback, then we have to win.””
The Steelers are seeing these rookies grow throughout the regular season, and it has highlighted what has been a tremendous 2021 NFL Draft class. If the Steelers continue to not just see contributions, but growth from these rookies, the sky is the limit for this group not just this year, but in the future.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Chicago Bears in Week 9 on Monday Night Football.