How many Steelers rookies could realistically make the team in 2022?

May 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; participates in drills during Rookie Minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; participates in drills during Rookie Minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be counting on several rookies to step up early, but how many rookies could realistically make the team in 2022?

Being an NFL draft pick certainty doesn’t guarantee a player a roster spot. In the past, we have seen plenty of selections by the Pittsburgh Steelers who weren’t able to make the final roster.

Last year, despite my better judgment, the Steelers released edge defender Quincy Roche during final cutdowns. He quickly signed with the New York Giants. In 2020, Antoine Brooks didn’t make the team after much of Pittsburgh’s media projected him to play a large role from the gate as a dime backer and sub-package defender.

We would love it if the Steelers would knock every pick out of the ballpark, but that just isn’t the case. Once they spend all summer with these rookies, the coaching staff will make a determination of which players deserve to stick around for the long haul and which ones will head to the practice squad and try again next year.

So which rookies will make the final 53-man roster for the Steelers this year?

Steelers rookies who could make the final roster

The top four are extremely easy to predict — beginning with their top selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. My rookie roster locks this year are QB Kenny Pickett, WR George Pickens, DL DeMarvin Leal, and WR Calvin Austin. These were Pittsburgh’s top four selections in the NFL Draft. The first three names listed are givens.

While a compensatory fourth-rounder (pick 138 overall) typically wouldn’t be guaranteed a roster spot, I believe Austin is. The Steelers lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud this offseason. Austin was also deemed a terrific value pick and many draft experts believed he should have been selected in the third round.

After Pittsburgh’s top four draft choices in 2022, it gets a bit trickier to predict. I believe Connor Heyward will make the team thanks to the versatility he offers as a do-it-all H-back in addition to his special teams ability. In fact, I can envision a scenario where both Heyward and Derek Watt make the roster — with Watt being a true fullback and Heyward being listed as the third tight end.

The team also has high hopes for seventh-round linebacker, Mark Robinson. However, his path to a 53-man roster spot is going to be more difficult. Robinson possesses the physicality and energy to be a core special teams player, but he has an uphill battle with higher draft investments ahead of him on the roster.

Seventh-round quarterback Chris Oladokun won’t make the roster unless Mason Rudolph is traded or released. Otherwise, he is sure to head to the practice squad.

Out of all of the undrafted free agents this year, the only one I can see a path to the final roster is running back, Mataeo Durant. The former Duke RB was impressive enough that a team could have spent a day-three draft choice on him. He has a similar athletic profile to Anthony McFarland — likely his biggest competition for a roster spot.

Realistically, I think there are as many as seven Steelers rookies (draft choices and undrafted free agents) who could potentially make the team in 2022. However, if I had to make my final prediction this early, I think five of these guys do in fact make the final 53-man roster: Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, DeMarvin Leal, Calvin Austin, and Connor Heyward.

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It will be interesting to see if this prediction holds true or if there can be a few underdogs who rise to the occasion to prove me wrong. Either way, we would be in for an exciting summer.