Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie Forecast 2024

Troy Fautanu - Steelers Rookie Forecast - Featured Image

Solid Starter

Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan – Round 3

The 2024 NFL Draft was very strong at the wide receiver position and a flurry of wide outs when late in the first round and early in the second round. That caused some receivers to slide with Wilson being one of those prospects. While Wilson slid to the third round, he was an excellent value pick for the Steelers at that point of the draft.

There is a lot to like about Wilson for the NFL as he is an effective slot receiving weapon. Wilson is a run after the catch playmaker that is a threat to rip off chunk gains on any reception. With quickness and shifty route-running, Wilson is quick through his route with just enough burst out of his breaks to create separation. Wilson is a very polished route-runner that has been groomed well by the Michigan coaching staff. He does not take extra steps and is very crisp through his cuts. Along with the ability to get open, Wilson is a natural hands catcher that is very reliable to the secure ball. With a fighter style, the 5-foot-10, 186-pound Wilson is a feisty player that provides energy and is an good contributor as a slot receiver.

Wilson should compete immediately to be the starting slot receiver for the Steelers. Pittsburgh traded Diontae Johnson to the Panthers at the beginning of free agency and they need a slot weapon to replace him. Wilson is a polished player with experience so it would not be surprising if he hits the ground running and is a quality starter early in his career.

2023: Keeanu Benton, DT
2022: Kenny Pickett, QB
2021: Dan Moore, OT
2020: Alex Highsmith, OLB
2019: Diontae Johnson, WR
2018: James Washington, WR
2017: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
2016: Artie Burns, CB
2015: Sammie Coates, WR
2014: Stephon Tuitt, DE
2013: Markus Wheaton, WR

Most Likely To Bust

Zach Frazier, C, West Virginia – Round 2

Unless they wanted to move James Daniels or Isaac Seumalo from guard, the Steelers needed help at center and they selected Frazier to be the center of the future. There were projections of Frazier being a first-round pick, but team sources from around the league were less enthusiastic about him and some had him graded in the mid-rounds. The Steelers grabbed Frazier in the second round and he could be put on the field quickly for Pittsburgh.

Frazier was a reliable blocker in college but he has some limitations for the NFL. In pass protection there are times where he can get overwhelmed by mass and has problems when speed rushers get on his edges. I could see Frazier having some problems handling the popular double A gap blitzes that are in vogue in the NFL, along with double mug fronts with a nose tackle lining head up over him.

The Steelers have had a weak offensive line in recent years and they have made concerted effort to change that with early-round picks on Broderick Jones, Troy Fautanu, and Frazier. I could see Frazier being a potential disappointment if he is unable to adapt to pro pass rushers and blitz schemes.

2023: Broderick Jones, OT
2022: DeMarvin Leal, DT
2021: Pat Freiermuth, TE
2020: Anthony McFarland, RB
2019: Justin Layne, CB
2018: Mason Rudolph, QB
2017: James Conner, RB
2016: Sean Davis, CB/S
2015: Senquez Golson, CB
2014: Dri Archer, RB/WR
2013: Le’Veon Bell, RB

Potential Boom Pick

Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington – Round 1

The Steelers added two potential starting quarterbacks this offseason with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. Both players are looking to turn their career’s around in Pittsburgh, and it could be challenging with a rookie starting at left tackle. However, Fautanu is an exceptional athlete and could turn into a superb edge protector in the NFL.

There is no doubt that Fautanu is extremely athletic for an offensive lineman. He is a smooth glider with excellent agility and nimble movement skills. Fautanu is very fast firing out of his stance with a burst to the second level. With quick feet and agility, Fautanu is able to stay square on speed rushers and neutralize them running around the edge. With his excellent athleticism, Fautanu is a natural knee bender that does not have to reach after edge rushers because his feet and bending get him in proper position. While Fautanu lacks a little height, he does have 35 inch arms and that plus length is helpful for him to keep pass rushers at bay. He uses his length to help sustain blocks and tie up defenders.

In the ground game Fautanu is a good fit in a zone blocking scheme. With his speed and athleticism, Fautanu moves well as part of the moving mall. He is quick for getting to linebackers off the snap along with peeling off defensive linemen and then hitting a linebacker to help open a hole. While he blocks hard, Fautanu is limited and is not a true bull that can overpower defenders at the line of scrimmage. He fights, but Fautanu is not a people mover to drive defenders backwards off the ball as Fautanu is not real powerful. His body might be maxed out given his height, so he could be limited in being able to add more power and a better anchor.

Fautanu (6-3, 317) could use some developmental time, but if he is coached up well he could be an excellent pro starter. Fautanu is a rare athlete with unnatural quickness. The skill set and upside is there for him to be a boom pick for Pittsburgh.

2023: Joey Porter Jr., CB
2022: George Pickens, WR
2021: Najee Harris, RB
2020: Chase Claypool, WR
2019: Devin Bush, LB
2018: Terrell Edmunds, S
2017: T.J. Watt, LB
2016: Javon Hargrave, DT
2015: Bud Dupree, LB
2014: Ryan Shazier, LB
2013: Jarvis Jones, LB

Future Depth Player

Mason McCormick, G, South Dakota State – Round 4

The Steelers drafted a tackle and a center with their first two selections and then skipped a round before adding a guard in McCormick in the fourth round. McCormick (6-4, 309) was a rock in college starting 57 straight games and had excellent testing numbers at the combine. McCormick will need development for the NFL as he is making a big jump in competition. In time, McCormick could be a solid backup guard for Pittsburgh.

2023: Darnell Washington, TE
2022: Calvin Austin, WR
2021: Quincy Roche, OLB
2020: Kevin Dotson, G
2019: Benny Snell, RB
2018: Jaylen Samuels, RB
2017: Cam Sutton, CB
2016: Tyler Matakevich, LB
2015: Doran Grant, CB
2014: Wesley Johnson, OT
2013: Shamarko Thomas, S