Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 NFL Draft class has been tremendous. How good? Some are wondering if it might be the best, albeit small, draft class across the entire league in 2020.
Ever week it seems the Steelers’ rookie class stands out for yet another reason. Maybe it is Chase Claypool’s dominant play, Kevin Dotson filling in wonderfully for David DeCastro or Alex Highsmith not just being a special teams demon, but a valuable backup at outside linebacker.
Yes, the Steelers’ rookies have stood out on several occasions, and it isn’t just Steelers fans who have noticed. In fact, see what the experts Pro Football Focus (PFF) had to say about the Steelers’ rookies as they dominated the Cleveland Browns 38-7 in Week 6.
The most productive receiver on a per-route basis in this game was none other than Steelers second-rounder Chase Claypool. He may not have been able to match his four-touchdown performance from Week 5, but he did rack up 3.36 yards per route run — bringing his season total to 3.49, which is over half a yard more than any other qualifying wide receiver. Claypool also picked up a touchdown on the ground and is now one of two wide receivers with two rushing touchdowns on the season.
Kevin Dotson got the start at right guard for the Steelers and lost just one of his 25 pass-blocking reps. That loss resulted in a sack, but it could have been worse for the Day 3 rookie. Dotson has now seen 92 pass-blocking snaps in his NFL career and has lost just two reps. His run blocking, however, was far from great as he will likely end up with more than double the number of negatively graded run blocks as positively graded ones.
Cleveland’s first-round pick, Jedrick Wills Jr., had a similar day as Dotson. He was stout in pass protection, with only two losses on 36 reps, but was a non-factor in the run game. That has really been the story of his rookie season so far, as he entered the day with a 77.9 pass-block grade and a 52.0 run-block grade of 52.0.
A look back at the game, outside of the rookies, is something PFF loves to do, and often times their unique statistics show how, or why, things turned out the way they did. In the latest recap, PFF dives into the data behind the Steelers’ pass rush, and a rather sluggish passing offense from Ben Roethlisberger and company.
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Whether he was in a clean pocket or under pressure, the third-year signal-caller failed to get anything going. The daunting Steelers pass rush pressured him on over 47% of his dropbacks (11 in total). Mayfield took four sacks and completed just three of seven passes for 45 yards and an interception on pressured dropbacks.
When free from pressure, Mayfield was equally as bad. He completed seven of 11 passes for 74 yards with a pick-six — courtesy of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. He also had another interception that was negated by a penalty. In all, Mayfield led the Browns’ passing attack to -0.59 expected points added per pass play when on the field, the second-worst mark of his professional career.
Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger made few mistakes in the game but led a relatively lethargic passing offense that barely generated positive expected points added per pass play and completed just three passes over 10 yards downfield. The Steelers’ rushing attack was actually more efficient on a per-play basis.
But it didn’t matter at the end of the day due to how well the defense played and how bad the Cleveland offense was. Pittsburgh held the Browns to -0.5 expected points added per play, the best mark of the week so far and tied for the best by a Steelers defense since Week 17 of 2008 — also against the Browns.
The Steelers now have to turn their attention away from the Cleveland Browns, and onto the 5-0 Tennessee Titans. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding that epic matchup of undefeated teams.