Steelers’ Rookie Snap Count Ranks Just 24th League-Wide Despite 2 Starters

It is to me somewhat baffling that the Pittsburgh Steelers have two rookie starters in their lineup. It is even more baffling to me that their workload from their rookie draft class pales in comparison to the vast majority of the rest of the league.

According to Pro Football Focus, following the Week 10 games—which does not include Thursday Night’s win over the Titans, of course—the Steelers ranked just 24th league-wide in terms of total snaps contributed (on offense and defense) from their rookie draft class.

Of course, they have only had three rookies in total that have even seen any type of work on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. First-round outside linebacker T.J. Watt looks to be the first start-to-finish rookie starter on the defensive side of the ball since Kendrell Bell, while JuJu Smith-Schuster on offense has essentially emerged as their number two target among wide receivers.

Aside from their aforementioned picks in the first and second rounds, they have also gotten about a couple dozen snaps or so out of third-round running back James Conner, but his workload has been limited by his limitations in his ability to contribute to the passing game, either as a receiver or as a blocker. He had a failed blitz pickup earlier this season that led to an interception being thrown.

It doesn’t help that their other third-round draft pick, cornerback Cameron Sutton, has spent the first 11 weeks of the season on injured reserve. Had he stayed healthy, I think there is a pretty good chance that he would have at least worked into the dime defense. Mike Hilton, of course, would in no way be deserving of giving up his spot, considering the work he has done in all areas in his first season.

The hope is that Joshua Dobbs doesn’t play a single snap this season. The only way that could possibly be a good thing is if the Steelers lock up the number one seed, allowing Ben Roethlisberger to sit out a game, and then Landry Jones does so well in a blowout win that they have to rest him at the end of the game. Otherwise he should never even dress.

Fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen has had a hard time dressing, but he is at the bottom of a deep cornerback group, and he has at least contributed on special teams when he has been active.

The sixth-round selection of Colin Holba and his subsequent failure to make the team nearly got Mike Tomlin fired (narrator: he is being sarcastic), and seventh-round outside linebacker Keion Adams is on injured reserve.

The Steelers have gotten about 850 snaps out of their rookies this year, almost all of which have come from two players. In comparison, the 49ers have over 2000 snaps more from their rookie class, with George Kittle leading the way. The Saints, Jets, Colts, Browns, Bills, Titans, Buccaneers, and Jaguars have all gotten at least 1500 snaps form their rookies this year as well.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • falconsaftey43

    Usually a sign of a good team to have not a ton of rookie contributions.

  • Brenton deed

    There are two obvious reasons for a low count: 1) good veterans 2) lousy draft class. Like most stats this count doesn’t answer any questions it merely poses them and it’s the answers that tell the story.
    SF top the count (lousy team) but NO are second ( most improved team?) NE are near the bottom of the count.. meh a mixed bag.

  • Ichabod

    I don’t fully buy into Conner’s lack of snaps being based on poor pass protection. He may very well be lacking in that department, but the Steelers seem to ride their running backs ’til the wheels fall off” now days. Conner could spell Bell for a series or two despite his short coming. He may even improve with experience

  • dany

    Problem is everyone knows he has issues in pass protection, if he’s coming in then you know they’re gonna run, which limits the offense. With an old Ben, you’re not gonna risk a pass protection miscue

  • WB Tarleton

    Rookie snap counts are misleading if used to judge a draft class.

    Rookies (beyond your 1-2 picks) playing a ton of snaps usually means your team is B.A.D. It’s one reason the “Dick LeBeau never played the kids” criticism was mostly unfounded. You do not take out a Troy, Aaron Smith, Farrior, Big Snack, or Ike Taylor to play rookies on a Super Bowl caliber defense. It is no coincidence that we began playing the kids once it became clear that they were old and no longer a Super Bowl defense.

  • Jim Foles

    Some serious hate on Dobbs.. Geez.. Ben threw the 5 int’s in one game this year. Not Dobbs.

  • Darth Blount 47

    It’s not personal, it’s business. Take out Dobbs and sign any number of “3rd-string” caliber guys. And instead with that 3rd, give us another Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, heck… maybe even another WR. All positions that could make a real impact this year, instead of a clipboard carrier.

    Ben also threw 4 TD’s in a game this year. Did Dobbs? 😉

  • Darth Blount 47

    If we can be honest, the 2017 draft class has had some real highs…. AND…. some real lows. Is that to be expected? Perhaps. Though sometimes you don’t get the highs to compliment those dastardly lows. There are arguments to be made all around about whether or not your team should be happy with getting ANY rookie contributions at all. But for a team that doesn’t go out and fill holes with Free Agency, we MUST often times have a few who contribute. Other teams fill the more immediate needs with trades and pickups, something we have decided to supplement our classes with, more recently under Colbert. Would I like to have a few other rookies showing signs of being able to be future stars? Yes. But whatever we are doing, I say keep doing it, because you won’t find me complaining/nit-picking much about 8-2! 🙂

  • Jim Foles

    Bradshaw would have never won a super with pittsburgh if this kinda quick judgment was placed on him when he was a rookie.. and Bradshaw looked bad.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    What is the average per pick? Funny stat because Cleveland had twice as many picks at some other teams. Bills and Saints seem unusual on that list.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Repeat after me… “Joshua Dobbs IS NOT Terry Bradshaw. Joshua Dobbs IS NOT Terry Bradshaw. Joshua Dobbs IS NOT Terry Bradshaw.

  • Taylor Williams

    Nothing wrong with Dobbs, it’s just that we needed a tight end and the 4th round was the best time to get one.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Thank you.

  • James Rogers

    Dobbs was a wasted pick, just like L Jones. Useless.

  • AndyR34

    Well…you misremember Brad’s rookie year. He was pulled often…Hanratty started 6 games…and it wasn’t due to injury.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You never want your third quarterback on the depth chart to be in a game. It has absolutely nothing to do with who that third quarterback is. If he is even dressing then that means something bad happened.

  • heath miller

    maybe it means that we already have good players and dont need to rush the rookies along?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Good health is a contributor to low rookie snap counts, too.