The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 rookie class was once again called upon to contribute in a significant way their first season in the NFL. For the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I compared the Steelers 2022 rookie class to those of the five previous seasons in both their usage and production. But how did they compare to other NFL team’s rookie class for 2022?
Earlier this week, an article on NFL.com graded each teams rookie class for 2022 and ranked them accordingly. With a grade of B+, the Steelers were in the sixth spot when it came to the rookie class of 2022.
The assessment from NFL.com is as follows:
Class grade: B+
(No. 20) Kenny Pickett, QB, 13 games/12 starts
(52) George Pickens, WR, 17 games/12 starts
(84) DeMarvin Leal, DE, 11 games/2 starts
(208) Connor Heyward, TE, 17 games/0 starts
(225) Mark Robinson, LB, 4 games/2 starts
(241) Chris Oladokun, QB, 0 games/0 starts (now w/KC)
Notable free agent signee:
Jaylen Warren, RB, 16 games/0 starts
SHOOK: It’s hard to not love the top of this small class for Pittsburgh. The Steelers selected the local hero, Kenny Pickett, then allowed him to learn behind Mitch Trubisky until it became clear Pickett was likely their best option at quarterback. Down the stretch, Pickett sorted out the turnover issues we saw early in the season, impressing onlookers with his decisiveness and composure and leading many to believe he could become the long-term answer at the position. His knack for clutch play sent the Steelers into the offseason with plenty of optimism. A big reason why Pickett’s future is so bright is the inclusion in this class of George Pickens, a stud receiver who turned heads in camp and made multiple highlight-reel grabs in 2022. It’s now easy to understand Pickens’ frustration with a lack of early-season opportunities: He’s a game-changing, playmaking artist who is destined to become Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver. He’s not yet a household name, but give it time. Pittsburgh hasn’t found a fit for DeMarvin Leal yet; in part because of T.J. Watt’s pectoral injury, he was stuck somewhere between being a down lineman and a 3-4 outside linebacker. (His knee also sent him to injured reserve midseason.) Until the Steelers firmly decide on his role, it’s unfair to expect much from him.
Connor Heyward was one of my favorites at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, landing on my All-Combine Team because of the skills he demonstrated during his workouts. Heyward’s size (6-foot-0, 230 pounds) precludes him from filling a traditional tight end role, but he could find a place as a fullback/tight end hybrid. When the Steelers needed him to play the latter position late in the season, he shined. The kid can ball — Pittsburgh just needs to find the best way to use him. Mark Robinson spent most of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, buried behind Myles Jack and Robert Spillane at inside linebacker, logging just 44 defensive snaps. With turnover coming at the position, though, Robinson could soon have a chance to prove his worth. Chris Oladokun missed the final 53-man roster cut and ended up on Kansas City’s practice squad. Jaylen Warren was a pleasant surprise. The powerful, physical spell back rushed 77 times for 379 yards and one touchdown, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry. He’s a second option to help take some of the load off Najee Harris — a necessity, if the team is to maximize Harris’ potential in the years ahead.
One thing I find interesting from the assessment is the inclusion of seventh-round draft pick Chris Oladokun even though he did not make the Steelers roster as he was cut before their final preseason game. I don’t know why he was put on the list unless they were trying to be thorough and include all rookies. But if that is the case, then the exclusion of fourth-round draft pick Calvin Austin III from the list after spending the year on the Reserve/Injured List (IR) does not follow form.
Comparing the Steelers to the rest of the NFL, it’s no surprise that the New York Jets landed in the top spot as they had both the offensive and defensive rookie of the year. But when a team makes two selections in the top 10, it’s a lot easier to have a great draft.
The Steelers 2022 rookie class came in second in the AFC North as the Baltimore Ravens were also graded a B+ but came in one spot ahead of the Steelers in the fifth position. Once again, the Ravens had the luxury of double-digit draft picks including two selections in the first round and 10 through the first four rounds. The Steelers managed to land high on the list with their selections despite their fourth-round pick being on IR and not having a fifth-round selection.
While it is great to see the Steelers rookie class of 2022 getting notoriety for their play on the field, the most important thing now is turning towards 2023. Having a great rookie campaign is one thing, but having them build into promising careers is the ultimate goal.
For more on the success of the Steelers 2022 rookie class compared to other recent groups in Pittsburgh, check out the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast below: