Pittsburgh Steelers add playmakers, depth on both sides during 2020 NFL Draft

The NFL’s first ever “virtual-only” draft is underway as the league is keeping things as normal as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time since 1967, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Rather, they traded that pick to Miami for star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Here is the full list of players drafted by the Steelers this year:

  • Round 2 (No. 49 overall) - WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
  • Round 3 (No. 102) - LB Alex Highsmith, Charlotte
  • Round 4 (No. 124) - RB Anthony McFarland Jr., Maryland
  • Round 4 (No. 135) - OG Kevin Dotson, Louisiana
  • Round 6 (No. 198) - S Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland
  • Round 7 (No. 232) - DT Carlos Davis, Nebraska

Here is the list of players with local ties taken in the NFL Draft:

  • 2nd Round:
    • #38 DE Yetur Gross-Matos (PSU) Carolina Panthers
    • #46 WR KJ Hamler (PSU) Denver Broncos
  • 4th Round:
    • #141 CB John Reid (PSU) Houston Texans
  • 5th Round:
    • #152 DB Kenny Robinson (WVU) Carolina Panthers
    • #153 OT Colton McKivitz (WVU) San Francisco 49ers
  • 6th Round:
    • #183 LB Cam Brown (PSU) New York Giants
    • #193 DT Robert Windsor (PSU) Indianapolis Colts
  • 7th Round:
    • #239 CB Dane Jackson (Pitt) Buffalo Bills

Follow along below as we updated each move and pick from the Steelers and local prospects during this year’s draft!

ROUND 7

With their final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Steelers took Carlos Davis, a defensive tackle from Nebraska.

The Steelers needed defensive line depth and grabbed Davis at No. 232 overall to fill that void left by Javon Hargrave.

According to NFL.com, Davis “has some pop at the point of attack when he’s first with his hands, but he’s just not as quick off the snap as he needs to be. He has his share of wins against opponents when he’s playing in a phone booth, but his batting average of effectiveness plummets when he’s forced to play on the move. He’s not a plus run defender and offers no value as a rusher, so finding a fit will be tough.”

A notable selection in the draft’s final round came from the Buffalo Bills. Coraopolis native and star defensive back at the University of Pittsburgh Dane Jackson was taken No. 239 overall.

With Jackson coming off the board, the Panthers have now produced a drafted player in each of the past 21 seasons.

Jackson spoke with Channel 11′s Jenna Harner about his experience at Pitt and preparing for the NFL.


ROUND 6

The Steelers didn’t have a selection in the fifth round. Their next pick came at No. 198 overall.

With it, they added much-needed depth at safety with Antoine Brooks Jr., a senior from the University of Maryland.

Originally graded as a 5th round prospect by NFL.com, Brooks could make an immediate impact on special teams and different defensive packages with multiple defensive backs.

Here is a brief look at his profile from NFL.com: “He was a second-team all-conference selection as a junior (68 stops, team-high 9.5 for loss, two pass breakups in 12 starts) and senior (team-high 87 tackles, 8.5 for loss, one interception, five pass breakups in 12 starts). Brooks’ lone interception for the year was a game-clincher in the opener, a win over Texas that the team dedicated to the late offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who passed away after suffering heatstroke during a May 2018 workout.”

Pittsburgh’s final pick is No. 232 overall in the seventh round.

Two more Penn State products, linebacker Cameron Brown and defensive tackle Robert Windsor, were taken on Day 3 of the draft. Brown was selected by the New York Giants with the No. 183 overall pick, while Windsor went just eight picks later to Indianapolis.


ROUND 4

Looking to keep filling the offensive line, the Steelers took Louisiana guard Kevin Dotson with the 135th pick in the 4th round.

Here is his bio from NFL.com:

Dotson is a second-generation Ragin’ Cajun, following in his father Kelcy’s footsteps. His twin brother, Kelly, is a defensive end at Nicholls State. Two of his uncles, Alvin and Dennis McKinley, played in the NFL. Dotson started 12 of 13 games played at right guard as a redshirt freshman, landing a spot on the Sun Belt Conference All-Newcomer team. He started all 26 games over the next two seasons at right guard, working his way up from the second-team all-conference squad in 2017 to the first team as a junior. He and teammate Robert Hunt dominated on the right side of the line in 2019, helping the Cajuns to an 11-3 record. He was named first-team Associated Press All-American as well as first-team All-SBC for his efforts in 14 starts.

The Steelers also took University of Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. with the 124th overall pick in the 4th round.

Here is more about him from NFL.com:

“Injuries have been the only thing holding McFarland back since his junior year of high school, when he was a second-team Washington Post All-Metro player at famed DeMatha Catholic. He missed his senior year with a broken leg, then had to redshirt his first year at Maryland (he chose the Terrapins over schools like Alabama and Miami to stay close to home) to continue his recovery. Healthy in 2018, McFarland was named second-team All-Big Ten and a Freshman All-American, rushing for 1,034 yards and four scores on 131 carries (7.9 per) in 12 games (five starts). He started seven of 11 games played in 2019, managing to score eight touchdowns on the ground (114 carries, 614 yards, 5.4 ypc) and one as a receiver (17 receptions, 126 yards, 7.4 average) despite a high-ankle sprain hindering his performance.”


ROUND 3

Pittsburgh has the No. 102 overall pick, which was a compensatory selection given to the franchise when Le’Veon Bell left in free agency.

After a long wait, the Steelers grabbed outside linebacker Alex Highsmith out of Charlotte.

Here is a brief look at Highsmith from his NFL.com bio: “His game matured in 2018, garnering first-team All-Conference USA accolades by posting 60 tackles, a school-record 17.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles. He repeated first-team All-C-USA notice and also was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press as a senior, finishing among the top five nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks (among his 75 total stops) in 13 starts."


ROUND 2

The Steelers’ first pick at No. 49 overall has been highly debated among national pundits and fans. Should they grab a offensive skill player like a wide receiver or running back? Or should they draft depth on defense to bolster the young unit?

The first local player was selected early in Round 2, as Yetur Gross-Matos -- the dominant edge rusher from Penn State was taken by the Carolina Panthers with the No. 38 overall pick.

According to NFL.com, Gross-Matos earned third-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore, as well as Penn State’s Defensive Lineman of the Year award, after leading the team with 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks among his 54 stops (with two forced fumbles) in 13 games. He moved up to first-team all-conference as a junior after pacing his defense with 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks among 40 total tackles.

Another Nittany Lion, WR K.J. Hamler, is off the board at No. 46 overall. The speedy wideout was taken by the Denver Broncos three picks before Pittsburgh’s first selection.

Here is his bio from NFL.com: Hamler was healthy enough in 2018 to start all 13 games and garner honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a receiver (42 receptions, 754 yards, 18.0 average, five touchdowns) and returner (20 kick returns, 523 yards, 26.2 average; 14 punt returns, 96 yards, 6.9 average). Hamler was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in the country. He started all 13 games as a sophomore, as well, receiving second-team all-conference recognition as a receiver (56 receptions, 904 yards, 16.1 average, eight touchdowns) and honorable mention notice as a returner (24 kick returns, 513 yards, 21.4 average, 23 punt returns, 126 yards, 5.5 average).

The Steelers took WR Chase Claypool with their first selection in the draft.

Claypool, out of Notre Dame, is another burner who can stretch the field. According to NFL.com, he started eight of 12 games played in 2017 (29 receptions, 402 yards, 13.9 average, two touchdowns) before lining up full-time with the starters as a junior (50 receptions, 639 yards, 12.8 average, four touchdowns in 13 games, 12 starts). Claypool became a household name in 13 starts during the 2019 campaign, as he was the team’s leading receiver, grabbing 66 passes for 1,037 yards (15.7 per) and 13 touchdowns, which ranked in the top 10 nationally.

This marks the first time in seven years that Pittsburgh did not take a defensive player with its first pick in the draft.

The Steelers tweeted a video of the moment Claypool found out he was being drafted by Pittsburgh in the second round:


ROUND 1

As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh doesn’t have a first-round draft pick for the first time in over half a century.

However, there were rumors circulating leading up to Thursday’s draft that the San Francisco 49ers had contacted the Steelers about a possible trade involving JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Reports said San Francisco was discussing offering their first-round pick in exchange for the Steelers’ top wideout, but local reporters soon shot those rumors down.

The first round concluded Thursday without Pittsburgh moving up via trade. The franchise’s first pick is No. 49 overall in the second round.