Expectations should start low for Steelers 2020 rookie class

Chase Claypool (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Chase Claypool (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Steelers have some rookies who may be able to step in and help under different circumstances, but here’s why expectations should be low.

In past years, certain Steelers rookies have been able to come in and make quite the difference right from the gate. Maurkice Pouncey started all 16 games as a rookie and earned Pro Bowl honors while linebacker Ryan Shazier earned a sizable role out of training camp.

Players like Bud Dupree, Sean Davis, Artie Burns, and Terrell Edmunds earned starting jobs as rookies. while T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Devin Bush exploded from the gate during their rookie campaigns.

Unfortunately, there are a few reasons we shouldn’t expect the same to happen with anyone from the Steelers 2020 rookie class.

2020 has been such an unusual year for so many reasons. When it comes to Pittsburgh, they without a first-round pick for the first time since 1967. In addition, all rookie minicamps across the league were skipped this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Steelers were shorthanded on draft selections this offseason, and with just training camp and preseason to get acclimated to the NFL game (which may no longer go on as scheduled) that’s not ample time to come in and make a difference from the gate.

In addition to these factors, the Steelers also have depth at some of the areas where they spent their highest draft picks. At wide receiver, Pittsburgh had already invested two second-round picks and a third-round pick in JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson before bringing Chase Claypool on board. Targets will be even more sparse for Claypool with pass-catching tight end Eric Ebron in the mix.

Alex Highsmith will also be fighting for limited action as a rookie. T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are firmly solidified in their starting roles and don’t often come off the field. When they do, it could be Ola Adeniyi replacing them, as he now has two years of the system under his belt.

For running back Anthony McFarland, perhaps finding some carries will come a bit easier. After all, he possesses a gear that nobody else has in their backfield. However, it’s already a crowded running back room, and if Pittsburgh elects to break tradition and keep four running backs this year in James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, and Jaylen Samuels, touches will be hard to come by.

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The Steelers rookie class will get their chance to shine eventually, but without any first-round player drafted and with limited time to get acclimated to their teammates, the speed of the NFL game, and their role on the team this year, it’s best to start with low expectations for them in 2020.