Zach Gotlieb | May 2nd, 2020
The Pittsburgh Steelers had an underwhelming 2019 campaign, headlined by injuries, most importantly to their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With the rise of the Baltimore Ravens in their division, the Steelers needed to retool this offseason. They picked up Stefen Wisniewski to help bolster the line and Eric Ebron to give Big Ben another weapon to throw to. Going into the draft, there were still holes at several positions. Trouble is, they were hamstrung by only having six picks in the draft, which includes no first-round pick. Identifying their most significant needs and addressing them was imperative. Let’s see how they did.
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Round 2, Pick 49: Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
With the first pick in their draft, the Steelers chose to give Roethlisberger a big weapon to play opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not often are you going to find a receiver who stands at 6’4″ and runs a 4.42. He has elite size and speed with excellent hands, particularly in contested catch situations. People have drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson. He doesn’t have anywhere near the skill level. However, you can definitely see the comparisons between the two in skillset and build. He’ll be an excellent complement to Smith-Schuster and find a potential starting role right away.
Round 3, Pick 102: Alex Highsmith, LB, Charlotte
Highsmith is an impressive athlete. He can rush the passer and drop into coverage. He lacks some bend, but he can definitely get to the quarterback. It remains to be seen what the jump from FCS competition to NFL competition will look like. Still, he comes in with some really good tools and good mentors in T.J. Watt, and Bud Dupree. He’s not going to be a starter day one, but he should be a rotational player with Dupree and Watt.
For a full scouting report on Highsmith, click here.
Round 4, Pick 124: Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland
James Connor is a good running back. He’s got a lot of talent. That said, he lacks durability and a skill that makes him “great.” That’s not a bad thing, but getting him a running mate is a big deal, and McFarland would be a very good running mate. McFarland has also been hampered by injuries, but splitting carries should lighten the load and lower the risk for both guys. McFarland has good hands out of the backfield and a home run hitting threat.
Round 4, Pick 134: Kevin Dotson, OG, Louisiana Lafayette
With the signing of Wisniewski, that figures to set the interior line starting lineup, at least for week one. That said, all three starters on the interior are 30 or 31, which means that starting to look for younger pieces to eventually succeed their veterans three is a must. Dotson is a big-bodied guard at 6’4″ 310. He’s got an excellent anchor but struggles with lateral movement as to be expected for someone his size. He’s a guy that could really take advantage of working with veterans that have had successful careers and growing behind them. Eventually, I could see him moving into a starting role.
Round 6, Pick 198: Antoine Brooks Jr., S, Maryland
Brooks is a fun player to watch. He’s a bigger-bodied safety that could also mix as a safety/linebacker hybrid. He’s decent in coverage and excels while in-the-box. Finding a running mate to hold down the defensive backfield with Minkah Fitzpatrick was a need. Brooks’ ability to play deep and in the box could make him an exciting player to watch. He has a chance to compete for a starting spot this year.
Round 7, Pick 232: Carlos Davis, DT, Nebraska
The seventh-round is for guys that you’re just willing to take a flyer on. Davis possesses NFL size and has some explosive plays. But he doesn’t have the speed or leverage you’d like to see out of a guy with his size in the middle. He’s got tools you could potentially work with, but I don’t see much of a role for him on this defensive line.
Overall, the Steelers were hamstrung by not having a ton of picks to work with only one pick in the top 100. Despite that, they used their picks to their advantage and gained players that could find some sort of role for themselves on the team. Picking Brooks in the sixth round could turn out to be an excellent value pick as he could find himself competing for the starting safety job. It’s hard with a seventh-round pick, but Carlos Davis was their worst pick. Everywhere else, they found role players, and Davis seems to be a practice squad player at best. Overall, this was a productive draft for the Steel City.
Overall Grade: B+
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