How many rookies will start for the Pittsburgh Steelers on opening day?

The Pittsburgh Steelers had four rookies in the starting lineup by the end of the 2023 season. Broderick Jones started at left tackle, as did Joey Porter Jr., Keeanu Benton, and Darnell Wahington at their respective positions.

None of them, however, opened the season as a starter. Jones remained on the bench entirely, though Porter, Washington, and Benton contributed rotationally. In light of how the 2023 season started and ended for that year’s rookie class, what are the expectations for this year’s rookies?

One can make a coherent argument for at least four rookies beginning the season as starters. Odds are the number falls short of that mark, but I can’t imagine the entire absence of the class. The top two picks are the most likely.

And the second-round pick has the easiest path. For C Zach Frazier, he’s playing without an incumbent. If he doesn’t start for the Steelers, they have to play somebody out of position. First-round T Troy Fautanu stands a good chance of being a plug-and-play starter, but he still has to beat out Dan Moore Jr. I think the coaching staff will find that a tougher assignment than fans do.

The pair of third-round Wilsons will play this year, but will they start? Roman, the wide receiver, has the better chance due to the lack of quality depth at the position. Payton, the inside linebacker, has to compete with Elandon Roberts and potentially Cole Holcomb to see the field. All of them are behind Patrick Queen, of course.

The rest of the group is fourth-round OL Mason McCormick, sixth-round DL Logan Lee, and sixth-round DB Ryan Watts. I think they all make the 53-man roster, but it’s possible none even see the field outside of special teams.

The Steelers’ 2023 season has been put out of its misery, ending as so many have before in recent years: a disappointing, blowout playoff loss. The only change-up lately is when they miss the playoffs altogether. But with the Buffalo Bills stamping them out in the Wild Card Round, they have another long offseason ahead.

The biggest question hanging over the team is the quarterback question. Does Russell Wilson make them a Super Bowl-caliber team, or are they wasting a year? Will he play just one season in Pittsburgh before moving on, or the Steelers moving on from him? How will the team address the depth chart?

The Steelers are past free agency and the draft and their roster for the 2024 season is coming into focus. They made numerous moves through signings and trade—and release. More than usual, they seemed comfortable creating holes, confident they can fill them. Now that we have so many pieces of the puzzle, however, we merely have a new set of questions to ask.


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