The concept of quality over quantity, is one whose validity will be tested during the course of the 2020 season. When viewing this year's draft class, one should consider the following; the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers had a draft class with less than seven picks, one of them blossomed into a hall of fame safety, that being Troy Polamalu from their 2003 draft class.
If history repeats itself, one can assume that within this draft class, as least one of these rookies should evolve into a franchise player and perhaps more; considering Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert's drafting record the last few years, this is likely. No one can predict the course that a rookie's NFL career will take, whether he is selected in the first or seventh round. Ultimately the hope is that this group represents the missing pieces needed to help them return to the postseason.
49th Overall Pick: Wide receiver Chase Claypool
Claypool did not become a hot commodity for other teams until this year's NFL Combine. It is one thing to run a sub 4.4 seconds in the 40 yard event, and record a vertical jump of over 40 inches; when that player happens to be 6'4, 238 lbs, then we are dealing with a someone with star potential. For the Steelers, whose wide receiving group comprises mainly of 'z' and slot receiver, having a receiver like Claypool, who can stretch the field on the outside, can only help expand an offense that in dire need of dynamic playmakers. With the return of Ben Roethlisberger, along with the addition of Eric Ebron, and the trio of Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington; the Steelers may have the potential to return back to the elite form it once was between 2014-2017.
102nd Overall Pick - Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith
Contrary to what many may think, being a late bloomer can somewhat be advantageous, as many players in this category have yet to reach their ceiling. In the case of Alex Highsmith, his first three seasons with UNC Charlotte could be perceived as development years.
In his junior year, he broke out with 18.5 tackles for loss, along with 60 total tackles and three sacks. Yet 2019 was the year Highsmith exploded onto the scene and made a name for himself. His 15 total sacks placed him among the nation's leaders in this category. He also set career highs in total tackles with 75, and passes defended with three. This upcoming season will likely be a redshirt year for Highsmith. Yet if true to form, do not be surprised if his defensive snaps increase as the season goes on.
124th Overall Pick - Running back Anthony McFarland Jr.
One word describes Maryland running back Anthony McFarland, that word is 'explosive'. McFarland has the type of breakaway speed that can win games and break opposing
defenses. In November 2018, he pushed one of the best teams in the country in Ohio State to the limit, with 298 rushing yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes found out quickly in that contest, that if you give a player with McFarland just a little room, he will make you pay. Injuries slowed him down this past season, but his speed was well in tact as he showed in this year's NFL Combine. What does this move mean for James Conner? At this point not much, but his best ability will be his availability. The addition of McFarland brings an element of speed that was sorely missing from the running backs currently on the roster.
135th Overall Pick - Offensive Guard Kevin Dotson
You know how you can tell if an offensive lineman is good at what he does? Look at his achievements. In 2019, Dotson was one of the most decorated offensive lineman in the Sun Belt Conference, and overall one of the most accomplished offensive linemen in the nation. In addition to gaining First Team All-American status from several different publications, he anchored an offensive line who paved the way for Louisiana's ground offense, which ranked third in the nation with 6.28 yards per carry, seventh in total rushing yards with 3,604, and sixth in yard per game with 257.4. This lifelong Steelers fan was exactly the type of interior lineman they were looking for, following the retirement of Ramon Foster and the departure of Bj Finney to the Seahawks. When it comes to ground offense, the Steelers have been a model of futility a while. With this noted, addition of Dotson may prove to be the most important of this year's draft class.
198th Overall Pick - Safety Antoine Brooks Jr.
When you look at Antoine Brooks Jr.'s frame, it is not hard to tell that this young man was built to play football. With Brooks Jr., what you see is what you get; a physical, thumping, downhill safety. Last season, Brooks Jr. set career highs in total tackles with 87 and passes defended with five. It seems almost appropriate the Steelers would select a Terrapins safety, considering one left during free agency during the offseason in Sean Davis. What will be key to Brooks Jr.'s success is how he will be utilized. Based on his body of work, he is better suited as a box safety. Nothing wrong with reinforcing your secondary unit with a versatile, hard-hitting defender who can roam around and make plays.
232nd Overall Pick - Defensive lineman Carlos Davis
Davis is not just a proven football player, he is a proven all-around athlete. As an NCAA Track & Field Honorable-Mention All-American, Davis successfully parlayed those skills on the gridiron. Despite being slowed down by injury last season, Davis still recorded 32 total tackles, along with four sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and three passes defended. As we learned from this year's NFL Combine, he is as mobile as he is strong, posting an incredible 4.82s in the 40-yard dash. For a Steelers team that prides themselves in having athletic defenders, David fits the bill in every way.