In 2012, the Pittsburgh Steelers “true” rookies combined to play 966 snaps on either offense or defense and in 2011, that number came in at 1,398 snaps. It\’s a known fact that Steelers rookies on the defensive side of the ball are lucky to see any playing time during their first season, so because of that, the expectations that both linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Shamarko Thomas will see more than 200 snaps of playing time each in 2013 must remain tempered.
Offensively, skill position rookies such as running back Le\’Veon Bell and wide receiver Marcus Wheaton could very well see snap numbers in excess of 500 depending on how quickly they pick up the offense.
The 2013 version of the Steelers will have a completely different look as several veterans are no longer with the team. The obvious area where the rookies can help the team in 2013 is on special teams, especially when you consider that two main contributors, safeties Will Allen and Ryan Mundy, have left via free agency during the offseason.
The Steelers special teams units produced only one thing in 2012, and that was penalties. As far as turnovers go, a recovery of a muffed punt by New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley in Week 2 was it.
Outside of their own kickoff returns, the Steelers special team units were less than spectacular in 2012, and new coordinator Danny Smith has been hired to fix that in 2013. Jones, Thomas, Vince Williams and perhaps even cornerback Terry Hawthorne, assuming he makes the roster, will all be expected to help turn those turnover numbers around this season.
Of the 105 times that the Steelers were flagged in 2012, 22 of them came on special teams with 8 of them being pinned on cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and Stevenson Sylvester. That simply can\’t happen again in 2013.
According to Pro Football Focus, of the 72 special team tackles made in 2012, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen, Brandon Johnson and Mundy combined to produce 41 of them. With two of those four players now gone and Allen not expected to play much on coverage teams because he will be a starter on defense, those numbers must be replaced by other backups.
Which rookie, in your opinion, will contribute the most on special teams in 2013?