Grading the Steelers rookie class through the 2022 preseason

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens (14) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers offseason program is wrapping up, and here is a list of grades for the team’s rookie class.

With the Steelers finalizing their roster, we as fans have a better idea of what the team has in this rookie class. Almost every rookie saw significant snaps during training camp and most looked the part. It wasn’t great for everyone, but quite a few of the rookies shined in their opportunity and should be fixtures on this team going forward.

Important to note that the only rookies included on this report card are drafted ones. Outside of Jaylen Warren, the rest of the undrafted rookies were pretty lackluster. As for the drafted rookies, it was a mostly strong showing from the group. There is plenty of reasons to be excited about this group based on their grades.

Round 1 pick:

Grade: B

It was a pretty cut-and-dry offseason from Kenny Pickett. He had his early struggles in camp before he finally settled in. His first and last preseason games were pretty average. That said, he shined during the two-minute drill in the second game and looked like a potential franchise quarterback.

Had he shown more consistency, Pickett could have made the push for an A, but the lack of consistent success holds him back. He looks like he could start sooner than later, but he still has some ways to go before he will deliver solid performances week in and week out. It was a good camp for the future of the franchise, but not a perfect one by any means.

Round 2 pick:

Grade: A-

Had camp cut out about halfway through, George Pickens would have earned an easy A+, as he was off to the hottest start I’ve ever seen from a rookie player. He was a terror in practice as essentially no one on the defense could cover him. He showed up in his first game as well, looking like the dynamic receiver that had been on display in practice.

After that first preseason game though, Pickens quieted down. He didn’t fall off a cliff by any means, but the wow plays slowed down. He was quiet in the final two games. That doesn’t mean he is bad all of a sudden, it just means defenses began to figure him out. Because of this cool down, Pickens just misses a perfect camp grade.

Round 3 pick:

Grade: B

DeMarvin Leal is a hard one to grade. While a lot of people liked the value the team got in Leal, it is hard to expect a lot from a third-round pick right off the bat. Add in the fact that Leal put on weight in order to better fit the Steelers scheme and there were questions about how productive the defensive linemen would be.

While he wasn’t dominant by any means, Leal at least looked the part as a pass rusher. He popped during practice and games, constantly getting into the backfield and applying pressure. He struggled with finishing though, as he wasn’t a huge stat monster because of this. It was a good offseason for Leal, but he needs to keep his momentum pointing up in the season.

Round 4 pick:

Grade: INC

I don’t like giving an incomplete grade, but it is hard to give anything else based on Calvin Austin’s summer. He shined early in camp due to his speed and talent, but a foot injury held him out of most of the rest of the offseason.

His early camp earned him a low A but not playing afterward earns him a low mark. Thus, due to his injury, a grade cannot be given right now.

Round 6 pick:

Grade: C+

If a C is what you would give an average camp (meaning they meet all expectations), then I would say Connor Heyward is just slightly above an average camp. I expected to see a versatile chess piece that mostly excelled at special teams. For the most part, Heyward achieved just that during practice.

The reason he gets the plus added to his grade is due to his receiving ability. The team seemed to find a way to get him involved during passing plays, and in some practices, he became a safety valve for the offense. He was far better as a receiver than I predicted, and because of that, he had a slightly better-than-average offseason.

Round 7a pick:

Grade: A+

The first of the seventh-round picks, Mark Robinson has easily had the most surprising and impressive offseason out of the entire rookie class. Most, myself included, expected Robinson to be a work in progress and a liability on defense. He has proven to be just the opposite, as Robinson has looked like a legitimately good player so far.

From practice to the actual games played, Robinson has looked like one of the best linebackers on the team. He has great instincts and makes up for his lack of size and athleticism by playing smart. He hasn’t earned a starting job yet, but Robinson had about as perfect of an offseason as a seventh-round pick could get.

Round 7b pick:

Grade: F

The worst pick from this draft and it isn’t close. Chris Oladokun was a curious selection. The team took him as their fourth quarterback on the roster, and while there were some reasons to be excited about the selection, the team grossly mishandled him. He received no snaps for almost all of camp. When he did play, he looked extremely rusty because he hadn’t played all summer.

Due to his lack of playing time and poor performance when on the field, he has to be graded as a poor pick. It was a poor use of resources and talent, and the Steelers are the reason he got the grade he received. It was a big waste, unfortunately. He is now a member of the Chiefs, which further muddies the water on this pick.

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With the majority of the Steelers offseason program wrapped up, here are the early grades for the team’s rookie class. Overall, it has been a strong group with a lot of excitement. It will be curious to see how the class fares over the rest of their rookie season.