Without a first round pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to wait until day 2 of the NFL draft to begin their rookie intake. Read on to learn more about the 2020 draft class, and what to expect from the prospects.
Round 2 – Pick 17 – Chase Claypool (WR Notre Dame)
The Steelers’ second-round pick Chase Claypool measures in at 6’4″ and 238lbs and has the size/speed combo that can dazzle teams. He put up over 1000 yards in 2019 at Notre Dame, while catching 13 TD’s and offers the Steelers something they currently don’t have – a big outside target.
Adding Claypool to a varied receiver room that was crying out for a physical threat is a smart move that helps Ben Roethlisberger immediately. There was arguably better value at the receiver position at this point in the draft, but it’s hard to argue with the skillset that Claypool brings to the table.
Big Ben is in win now mode, and the Steelers should be too. If Claypool can play up to his enormous potential, then this is a bargain – if not, then the floor could be extremely low for the man dubbed “Mapletron”.
Overall grade: C+
Round 3 – Pick 38 – Alex Highsmith (OLB Charlotte)
Alex Highsmith played predominantly as the OLB in a 3-4 system in Charlotte – racking up 21.5 TFL and 14 sacks in only 13 starts in his final year.
Highsmith’s forte is the finesse pass rushing game and he shows a great variety of moves to confuse and beat tackles to the outside. His production leapt from year to year throughout his college career – a positive sign for a player with some physical improvements to make.
He should crack the line-up on a rotational basis, and at the very least provide some relief for TJ Watt and Bud Dupree.
Overall Grade: B
Round 4 – Pick 124 – Anthony McFarland Jr. (RB – Maryland)
This pick was used on the oft-injured RB out of Maryland, Anthony McFarland Jr.
A proven home-run threat with a 4.4 40 yard dash, McFarland brings a different style of play to the RB room in Pittsburgh. Dangerous when given space and a decent receiver out of the backfield, he complements the more patient and punishing style of both James Conner and Benny Snell well.
However, while the Pittsburgh Steelers running backs have come in for some criticism over the last 12 months, cracking what proved to be a fairly effective rotation of Conner, Snell and Samuels won’t be an easy task for the former Terrapin.
Overall Grade: C-
Round 4 – Pick 135 – Kevin Dotson (OG – Louisiana-Lafayette)
With the retirement of Ramon Foster in the offseason, the Steelers needed to add some depth to the O-line rotation and Dotson grades out as a capable back up with potential to fit into the starting lineup with time.
Overall Grade: B
Round 6 – Pick 198 – Antoine Brooks Jr. (S – Maryland)
In the sixth round the Steelers selected hybrid safety Antoine Brooks Jr. out of Maryland. As you can see from the below highlights, Brooks excels at sniffing out ball carriers and tracking them to the line of scrimmage. He has shown struggles in man coverage, however, which could limit his playing opportunities, especially when tasked with covering the tight end heavy Browns and Ravens squads.
Overall Grade: C
Round 7 – Pick 232 – Carlos Davis (DT – Nebraska)
To round out the Pittsburgh Steelers draft, Carlos Davis was selected in the seventh round. Davis was a solid contributor for the Huskers’ defense throughout his college career. Based on his tape, he will struggle to make the 53 man roster on cut day.
Davis has proven himself an above average athlete, but lacks the pass rushing prowess to make up for his average run defending. Hopefully, this athleticism can allow for some quick development with a veteran defensive line group.
Overall Grade: D
Pittsburgh Steelers overall draft grade: C
The Steelers added some good pieces in Claypool and Highsmith, and landed a potential starter in Dotson, but the picks later on in the draft could be big swings with little connection. McFarland could find himself on the outside looking in of a crowded RB room, and while Brooks could find himself rotating in, Davis looks to be a final roster cut candidate.