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Rookie Report: Grading the Steelers 2023 draft class ahead of Week 3

Grading the rookies on the roster ahead of Week 3’s matchup against the Raiders.

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Alex Highsmith #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is congratulated by Nick Herbig #51 after scoring a touchdown after an interception against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

We’re officially two weeks into the NFL season, and fans have had a few more glimpses at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Draft class. How are they faring so far?

Here’s a look at grades for each of the Steelers’ draft picks this year through two weeks of the season.

OT Broderick Jones: B-

First-round pick Broderick Jones’ biggest knock to date feels like it’s just to do with his lack of playing time. However, the fact that he still isn’t seeing playing time despite Dan Moore Jr.’s poor play through two weeks is not great. After all, that indicates that the coaching staff either doesn’t think Jones can outplay Moore, who’s allowed a whopping nine pressures over two weeks — the most among all NFL tackles to start the year. Or, even worse, they’re just complacent enough not to make the change. Neither is great news, but Jones still has plenty of time to make a significant impact as a rookie.

CB Joey Porter Jr.: B

Second-round CB Joey Porter Jr. has had just a handful of opportunities so far this season, having played 21 total snaps through two weeks.

Porter hasn’t allowed a reception yet, though in a limited sample of work, only having been targeted in coverage twice over the first two games of the season. Where he’s excelled is in his physicality which can force splash plays, though ironically, that’s also been his weakness, rather handsy at times putting him at risk of penalties... even if they aren’t called.

Porter came up with the game-winning stop in Week 2, but you’ll note that there should have technically been a penalty there, even if the pass attempt was arguably uncatchable. Regardless, limiting potential penalties while maintaining his physicality will be key to his development as an NFL corner and expanding his role in the defense.

DT Keeanu Benton: A-

Keeanu Benton has seen more work than any other rookie in the Steelers’ 2023 draft class so far, and it has amounted to positive things, particularly in the pass rush department. Across 25 pass rush opportunities in his two games so far as a rookie, Benton has tallied two quarterback pressures and two tackles, splitting snaps fairly evenly between defensive tackle and nose tackle through two weeks. Benton ranks 18th among all rookie defenders — regardless of position — in overall defense-grade, per PFF.

TE Darnell Washington: B-

Darnell Washington’s role in the offense has been fairly limited, playing just under 43% of offensive snaps, with nearly half of those coming as a run blocker. The third-round pick out of Georgia has been solid in pass protection with limited opportunities but still has yet to see his first target on the season. Perhaps with the struggles the offensive line has seen so far in 2023, the Steelers might consider using more two tight end sets — having done so on just 21.1% of plays so far this season.

EDGE Nick Herbig: B+

Through two weeks, it’s been abundantly clear that the Steelers’ pass rush is one of the lone bright spots, and Nick Herbig is very likely to contribute to that pass rush in due time. Herbig played extremely well in the preseason and has been solid, though relatively unproductive as a pass rusher in comparison to his teammates in limited snaps. He has yet to record his first pressure as a pass rusher in the regular season, but expect Herbig to contribute soon, and be encouraged by what he’s shown through the preseason.

OL Spencer Anderson: B+

Spencer Anderson’s grade of a B+ has less to do with him and things he’s done wrong and more with the lack of playing time. However, he earned his way onto the final 53-man roster thanks to his versatility, and generally, it’s a good sign that he hasn’t yet been forced into action thanks to the health of the starting offensive line. However, this offense hasn’t played well so far this season and it could be that we see a shakeup on the line sooner rather than later.