The Steelers 2022 season is in the books, and the rookie seasons of the 2022 Steelers draft class is over. Kevin Colbert’s draft class went out with a bang, which can be his best class.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 2022 NFL DRAFT CLASS
20th Overall: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
52nd Overall: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
84th Overall: DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M
138th Overall: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
208th Overall: Connor Heyward, TE, Michigan State
225th Overall: Mark Robinson, ILB, Ole Miss
241st Overall: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
Undrafted: Jaylen Warren, RB, Oklahoma State
I will give my grades and breakdowns for every rookie outside Calvin Austin III and Chris Oladokun. Calvin Austin spent the entire rookie year on IR, and Chris Oladokun was released before the final cuts.
The 20th overall pick didn’t come in until the week 4 game vs. the Jets, and his presence was immediately felt. He helped take the lead back and was responsible for their only two scores that game. Although he threw 3 picks that same game, and the Steelers blew a 20-10 lead, we knew he had ice in his veins.
From the Jets game to the Eagles game before the bye week, he had his early rookie mistakes, throwing only 2 TDs to 8 INTs. However, after the bye week, he was much safer with the football, throwing 5 TDs to only 1 INT and leading back-to-back game-winning drives vs. the Raiders and Ravens in prime-time matchups.
He still shows early errors with accuracy, decision-making, and using his mobility a little too much, which puts him in rough positions. Those will come with time, but the rookie flashes show great potential, and Kenny is such a film junkie. He’s all about bettering himself and the chemistry with his targets, including George Pickens, who will only build.
His grade could’ve been much higher if the Steelers had a competent coordinator and got Pickens involved more. It seemed every time Pickens was involved or targeted, good things happened. We knew from early reports in training camp and preseason that this guy had that “DAWG” in him.
It didn’t take him long to be a human highlight reel, as in Week 3, he had the possible catch of the year vs. the Browns. He would only follow with more explosive plays, becoming a reliable deep threat and a contested catch monster, leading the NFL in contested catches and contested catch percentage.
He played like the Steelers #1 receiver this season and could honestly take the role completely from Diontae Johnson. He finished the season with 52 catches for 801 yards and led the Steelers in TDs with 4. He could’ve had a greater rookie season, but seeing what we saw, Pickens hasn’t even hit the iceberg yet.
The Pickett-to-Pickens connection is going to be scary. The reliability and trust they have in each other are amazing to see.
It might be unfair of me to give Leal a low grade with him hitting IR in October and coming back late in the season. Out of all the rookies that played, he showed the least impact, which shows how good this class was in Year One.
Leal actually played very well in limited snaps and, in my opinion, looked better than most interior defensive linemen on the roster, including Tyson Alualu, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Montravius Adams.
You knew when he was on the field. It seemed he was always in the backfield, blew up plays, and his hustle was easily seen. It would’ve been nice to see a full rookie year for him.
Leal is expected to have an increased role in year 2 and depending on what the Steelers do in the offseason, Leal could be in line to start. Drafted in the 3rd round, Steelers have high hopes for him. Once he builds more muscle, he could be a force.
He isn’t just Cam’s little brother. Every time the ball was thrown his way, he made the most out of it. Steelers knew about his versatility and used it very quietly.
His first big play came against the Buccaneers in Week 6, making a huge 45-yard catch and run play in the 4th quarter that eventually led to the game-sealing TD.
Less than two months later, he would score his first career TD vs. the Falcons, vs. his dad’s former team, and being the sole scorer for the Steelers that game.
His role increased later into the season, being used in jet sweeps and run-blocking schemes, and he stepped in for Pat Freiermuth vs. the Browns in Week 18 and showcased how good his hands are.
There was concern about his size at the TE position; however, like his brother, Connor is just a natural football player and will be a reliable receiver in the coming years.
A late gem found by Brian Flores. Former RB turned ILB and is not shy to get physical. Robinson was a standout in the preseason; however, he was a gameday inactive almost every game unless there was an injury to the position.
This changed the last two weeks of the regular season. He started both games alongside Myles Jack and Robert Spillane and took many reps over Devin Bush.
Robinson was hard to miss on the field. He made plays in the run game and is a downhill thumper, something the linebacker position has missed since Vince Williams retired. He is not afraid to hit the gaps and blow plays up.
He didn’t always succeed. His reads and misjudgment could hurt him in the future, but one thing is for sure, he plays like a Steelers LB! If he can improve pass coverage, he could be a great rotational piece and even start. A very similar story to Vince Williams.
I will add Jaylen Warren to this class because he was a GEM for an undrafted free-agent rookie and is the true RB2 the Steelers needed behind Najee Harris.
There were high hopes for Warren heading into training camp, and he proved to be possibly the biggest standout. He took the RB2 job from veterans Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland.
At one point, he was the better running back on the roster until after the bye week, and Najee played as a man possessed. That didn’t slow down Warren or the Steelers from playing him.
They were a big part of the Steelers success in the 2nd half of the season. The run game hasn’t looked that strong in a while, and the use of Warren and a running back committee was very important.
It’s hard to find any flaw in Warren’s game. His fumbles are still a concern, but you never got that sense that he would make a mistake. Warren was reliable in every aspect.
As a ball carrier, he has so much burst through the line and rarely goes down at first contact. As a receiver, he has great hands, catching passes out of his frame and making things happen when they don’t look good. In pass protection, he was a brick wall,
He had a great first season for an undrafted rookie and finished with 379 rushing yards on 77 carries. A 4.9 average!
Arguably, he was the best rookie. One thing’s for sure, Steelers got a gem and need to continue the 1-2 punch with Najee and Warren.
Below are my final letter grades on the rookies. Keep in mind this is all after year one. We should all be excited about this entire class heading into year two.
Grades are the author’s opinions and do not reflect the opinions of SteelersCountry.com as a whole.
You must be logged in to post a comment Login