The Steelers refusal to play young players
In the old days, the Steelers didn’t play their rookie class. No matter where you were picked, you would be stuck on the bench. The modern NFL has seen rookies take the field sooner, and Pittsburgh followed along. Now, it is standard for at least a few of Pittsburgh’s rookie class to be instant impact players.
That said, this season has seen a shift away from that ideologically. Despite this being one of the strongest rookie classes on paper in a while, it took a while for the group to see the field. It isn’t like this roster was full of top-level talent either.
Broderick Jones, the team's top pick whom they traded up for, was stuck on the bench despite lackluster play from Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor. Even when he started due to injuries, he was sent back to the bench despite playing well. It took some in-game comments from Okorafor to see Jones get permanently added to the starting lineup.
Joey Porter was a similar story. He was buried on the depth chart early, essentially only playing in dime defense. He looked good in very limited action while the rest of the cornerback room struggled. It took until after the bye week to see Porter become a starter for this defense.
Arguably the best rookie from this class has been Keeanu Benton, and he is still struggling to see the field. This defensive line hasn’t been great, but Benton has been a highlight for this team. Since the return of Cam Heyward though, his role on the defense has shrunk, averaging around 35-45 percent of the defensive snaps.
This isn’t just an issue with the rookie class either. Despite numerous injuries to the linebacker room, Mark Robinson has been passed over for bottom-barrel free agents. While sitting behind intended starters is fine, the fact that the team is still looking toward Mykal Walker and Blake Martinez is annoying,
The team has seemingly regressed on its stance of getting young players involved early. While providing rookies time to develop is good, and every rookie doesn’t need to start right away, playing time is important. It would be ideal to see some of the younger players on this team get a shot given the Steelers struggles.