The Detroit Lions tied the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, 16-16, in one of the weirdest Lions games in some time. That is really saying something, considering this franchise’s history through the years.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Lions 2021 rookie class played against Pittsburgh.
Penei Sewell, OL
Snap counts: 71 (100%) — 4 special teams snaps (12%)
There has been plenty of discourse over the last two months about whether or not first round pick Penei Sewell should remain at left tackle when Taylor Decker returns from injury. Despite all of the chatter, the coaching staff remained consistent with their plan to keep Decker on the left and Sewell on the right.
Finally, we got to see what things can look like with two good tackles to protect the quarterback and create running room. At times on the ground, things looked really good.
No offense to Matt Nelson, but he doesn’t make this block. To be fair, not many human beings do, much less 330-pound humans.
Sewell more than held his own against perennial all pro T.J. Watt and finished with a 79.3 pass blocking grade, allowing zero pressures or hits on 29 pass reps, per PFF.
Really impressive stuff for his first regular season start at the position.
Levi Onwuzurike, DL
Snap counts: 26 (30%) — 4 (12%)
Onwuzurike registered two tackles and looked to be fourth in the defensive tackle rotation against the Steelers.
He and the rest of the defensive line had a solid day against dynamic rookie running back Najee Harris, limiting him to just 105 yards on 26 carries.
Alim McNeill, DL
Snap counts: 15 (17%)
With defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn opting to go with more three technique defensive tackles on the field, McNeill saw less work at nose tackle.
He did register a batted pass during his limited action.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR
Snap counts: 43 (61%) — 6 (18%)
St. Brown finished with four catches for 61 yards on a day when the Lions passing game looked especially handcuffed.
Maybe the inclement weather in Pittsburgh had something to do with St. Brown continuing to see the majority of his snaps in the slot. Even after head coach Dan Campbell mentioned they would be looking to move him outside more often than in the first half of the season.
Derrick Barnes, LB
Snap counts: 15 (17%) — 7 (21%)
Barnes continues to be the second option alongside Alex Anzalone, and it certainly looks like this staff is making everyone (highly regarded rookies included) earn their snaps. Barnes may be a recent draft pick, but right now, Jalen Reeves-Maybin is playing better and he is being rewarded for it.
Jermar Jefferson, RB
Snap counts: 3 (4%)
On a day when the Lions were already missing running back Jamaal Williams, they also lost Jefferson to an injury when the rookie broke off a long touchdown run.
It’s been one of those years here in Detroit.
Jerry Jacobs, CB
Snap counts: 57 (66%) — 3 (9%)
Jacobs had a tough day tackling before exiting the game late with an injury. He did balance the tackling issues out with two pass breakups.
AJ Parker, NB
Snap counts: 69 (79%) — 4 (12%)
Another scrappy performance from Parker. Like Jacobs, he had some ups and downs throughout the course of the game, but he continues to progress, and that is all you can really ask for when your secondary is this green.
Mark Gilbert, CB
Snap counts: 30 (34%) — 3 (9%)
Gilbert took over when Jacobs left with an injury and made one of the biggest plays of the entire game during overtime. Doing his best Charles “Peanut” Tillman impression, he punched the ball free from receiver Diontae Johnson.
Youth is great and all, but it becomes difficult to manage when you are replacing one injured UDFA rookie with another.
Brock Wright, TE
Snap counts: 36 (51%) — 10 (20%)
At first glance, Wright looked to have a really strong game blocking. That is especially important now, with veteran tight end Darren Fells now in Tampa Bay after being released last week.
Other rookies of note: CB Ifeatu Melifonwu remains out with a thigh injury, but he returned to practice last week. Tommy Kraemer is now back on the practice squad after clearing waivers.