Due to concerns around the coronavirus outbreak, nearly all of the college pro days were cancelled this season. With the limited amount of in-person scouting available this draft season, teams will have to fall back on players they already know and coaches they trust for reliable information. Today we look at WR Michael Pittman from USC, which has produced a number of quality Steelers receivers from Lynn Swann to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Weight: 223 lbs
Age: 22 years old
After a stellar high school career that saw him named as the All-California Offensive Player of the Year, Pittman saw the field in all four years at USC. As a freshman he caught just 6 passes, returned a few kickoffs, and made 7 tackles on special teams. He broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore, earning 6 starts and catching 23 passes for 404 yards and 2 TDs. His upward trajectory continued his junior year where he caught 41 balls for 758 yards and 6 TDs despite missing 2 games with a shoulder injury. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and second-team All-American after recording 101 receptions for 1275 yards and 11 TDs.
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Michael Pittman Jr. is a WR prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Southern California.
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 8, 2020
2019 Stats: 13 games, 101 receptions, 1,275 yards, 11 TDs
Career Stats: 38 games (30 starts), 171 receptions, 2,519 yards, 19 TDs, 17 tackles, 3 blocked punts, 6 punt returns (1 TD), 5 kickoff returns
Pittman played almost exclusively from the left side of USC’s offense, but displayed the ability to run routes all over the field. He was used on WR screens, short hitches, slants, intermediate crossers, and deep balls. He has the size and strength to win against both man and zone coverage. Against zone, he is smart and savvy enough to find the holes and sit down to present a target to the quarterback. Against man coverage he uses his size and physicality to create separation and shields the defender away with his body. One of his most impressive traits is his ability to snatch the ball out of the air away from his body and not wait to catch it until it gets closer to his frame. He displayed a strong ability to track the ball in the air on deep balls and make catches over the shoulder. A secondary benefit of Pittman is his special teams experience. He returned kicks early in his career and also showed up on coverage units. Pittman made a number of tackles and blocked 2 punts in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Pittman is not overly speedy. He wins with size and strength, but not by running away from defenders. Given that, some of the more physical corners are able to lock him up and faster corners will be able to stay with him. His short-area quickness is below average and he is not the fastest getting in and out of his breaks or off the line. What speed he does have is in his long speed, and he has the size to be a viable threat down the field. One note is that he lined up exclusively on the left side of USC’s offense this past season. In the modern NFL receivers are often asked to switch sides of the field, which may be something he has to learn.
Pittman is a tough, physical player that has the height and ball skills to be a quality NFL receiver. USC suffered through some questionable quarterback play during Pittman’s career, and he became adept at working back towards the ball to present a target when the quarterback was in the scramble drill. Pittman is able to do the little things to help a team be successful, and displayed a willingness to block both in the run game and for other receivers after they caught the ball. He was a team captain this past season, a sign of leadership that the Steelers often look for in their draft prospects. Overall, there isn’t much not to like about Pittman’s game. He is a tall receiver who can win jump balls, has enough speed to stretch a defense deep, and displayed an ability to run every route in the tree and make catches all levels of the field.
Final Grade: Second Round
References: usctrojans.com, youtube.com