Now that the draft is over and the experts have submitted their grades on all the teams, it’s time to look forward at what type of impact all the Steelers rookies will have in their first season. The Steelers selected nine players during the NFL Draft and then signed another 10 undrafted free agents. This draft class has a ton of potential obviously, but who will have the best rookie season this year?
The obvious choice could be their first round selection Ryan Shazier. He is apparently a defensive playmaker that could make a huge difference. I just doubt that happens in his rookie season. It takes time to learn Dick LeBeau’s system and based on how long it took Lawrence Timmons to finally start and make an impact, I’m predicting similar results for Shazier. Timmons didn’t start a game until his second season and he eventually became the primary starter in his third. Timmons did have James Farrior and Larry Foote playing inside linebacker when he was drafted, so it could be easier for Shazier to earn some playing time with the likes of Vince Williams ahead of him. Although Williams did have a very good rookie season and I doubt he will want to relinquish the inside linebacker job where he started 11 times last season.
Offensively, Martavis Bryant has the potential to have the best rookie season. At 6-feet-4-inches, he is a big threat receiver that everybody said the Steelers needed. Last year at Clemson he scored seven touchdowns and gained 828 yards playing alongside Sammy Watkins. If you really think about it, he could be the starter opposite of Antonio Brown at some point this season. I’m starting to get excited about Martavis as I’m writing this. But…now I’m thinking about Limas Sweed. Our old friend Mr. Sweed was also 6’4″ and he amounted to diddly-poo. So now I don’t know what to think other than this. Dear Martavis, be better than Limas Sweed please. Sincerely, Steeler Nation.
As for Dri Archer, I highly doubt that he will have the best rookie season. Not because I think he will be a bust but just due to the limited touches he could potentially get. I talked about the comparison to Chris Rainey after Archer was selected last Friday night. While I liked Rainey and thought he made a difference at times just because defenses need to be aware of him while he was on the field, he only touched the ball 82 times for his entire rookie season. I feel like Archer will have a similar role in his rookie season. We might see glimpses of his speed and potential but the best rookie season out of everybody drafted or signed? Probably not.
My pick however for the best rookie season is Stephon Tuitt. In just three seasons at Notre Dame he recorded 21.5 sacks, 12 in his sophomore year. He was a projected first round talent but his junior season wasn’t fantastic. As we have all heard he came into camp out of shape after a sports hernia surgery. By the end of the year he showing he fully healthy, getting 1.5 sacks in a bowl game against Rutgers. I think he will have the best season out of all the other rookies simply based on the fact that his path to the starting job is potentially the easiest. Cameron Heyward is the defensive end on one side and on the other side we could be looking at Nicholas Williams and Brian Arnfelt. I doubt either of those two guys will be starting once the season comes. If Tuitt is in shape and motivated he has the most talent and physical gifts out of anybody on the defensive line. He is taking Aaron Smith’s old number, 91, so he has some pretty big shoes to fill. I think he will do a nice job of that, starting this season.
What do you think Steelers Nation? Who will make the biggest impact of all the rookies?