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Where Are The Rookies?

Updated: Sep 15

by Justin Ives

Photo courtesy of 3on3.

On this past Sunday, it felt like no Steeler, besides T.J. Watt, actually showed up to play, as the team got completely manhandled by the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers did not look good in any one aspect of the game. The O-Line played horribly, giving up 3 sacks and what felt like 100 pressures, and only gained 41 yards on the ground. Brock Purdy had a 66% completion percentage and a 111.3 passer rating against the highest paid defense in the NFL. Christian McCaffrey ran for over 150 yards at a clip of 6.9 YPC.

This begs the question: where were the rookies and weren’t they supposed to help with these deficiencies? Draft 412 takes a look as the Steelers' top prospects transitioned in week one to NFL players:

Broderick Jones (Round 1)

Jones, the 15th overall pick of the draft, played a total of 4 snaps in his debut. Meanwhile, left tackle Dan Moore gave up a sack and had a PFF grade of 33.7.

Jones was pressed into service when right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor suffered a concussion late in the game. If Okorafor happens to miss anytime, Jones should be the “next man up.”

Joey Porter Jr (Round 2)

According to Coach Tomlin, Joey Porter Jr. was to play in dime defense, however, this only occurred a handful of times last Sunday since the 49ers had a big lead and ran the ball efficiently. San Francisco did not have to spread their offense out, leading to 7 total snaps for Porter. In those snaps, he was not targeted once.

Keeanu Benton (Round 2)

Defensive Lineman Keeanu Benton, outside of Watt, might’ve been one of the few bright spots among the rookies. He did not play the full game, but he played 29 snaps and was the second highest rated rookie performance according to PFF. With Cam Heyward on the IR, Benton needs to continue to perform and help fill the big loss on the defensive line.

Darnell Washington (Round 3)

Washington played a total of 24 snaps on Sunday, however, he was not targeted in his first regular season game of his career. He did demonstrate his excellent blocking ability when he pancaked the highest paid defender in football, the 49’ers edge rusher and All-World Nick Bosa.

As Pat Freiermuth retains the TE1 role, fans may need to wait a little longer to see Washington released to play a significant role in the passing game. With his size and ability, he should be averaging a couple targets in every game.

Nick Herbig (Round 4)

Nick Herbig might’ve had the best preseason out of all the Steelers outside of starting QB Kenny Pickett. He finished the preseason with 3.5 sacks and was thought of so highly that rumors abound about him being the first substitute off the bench for edge rushers TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. He did not receive an inordinate amount of playing time Sunday as his debut finished with just an assisted tackle on 16 snaps. However, Steeler fans should be on the lookout for him to accumulate some more playing time this week vs the Cleveland Browns.

Cory Trice Jr. (Round 7)

Cory Trice Jr.’s rookie year was short lived as he suffered a non-contact knee injury in camp. The 7th round rookie looked like he had a good chance to make the roster and potentially make an impact, however fans of the Black & Gold will have to wait for the 2024 season to watch him play post recovery.

Spencer Anderson (Round 7)

Spencer Anderson was the Steelers' final pick of the 2023 draft. He cracked the roster for the year but did not see action in game one.

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