The COVID-19 pandemic has already slashed the amount of field time the 2020 NFL Draft class will have with the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff before the regular season gets underway. Expectations should be low entering year one for the class, but this is Steeler Nation we’re talking about, and a lack of production will be met with torches and pitchforks!
So let's dive right into it, and predict each rookies 2020 season stat line.
53 Rec, 825 yards, 5 TDS, 8 special team tackles
A receiver needs time to find chemistry with his quarterback. But Chase is coming into a offence which will find him in some favorable matchups. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington are all home run threats and will command tougher matchups until Claypool makes a name for himself. Mix that with behemoths Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron on he inside and Chase should never come across a double team. With speed to burn and his huge frame, Claypool only really needs to perfect a couple routes to leave his mark on the offense. That is, if Ben Roethlisberger is able to return to form in 2020.
His willingness to play specials should also see him compete with Derek Watt for the team lead in special team tackles.
3 Sacks, 20 total tackles, 1 fumble recovery
Coming off a 14 sack senior season, Alex Highsmith has shown a pass rushing prowess the Steelers haven't had out of an OLB3 since Jason Worilds backed up Lamar Woodley and James Harrison. Coming off a season which only saw Anthony Chickillo register a 1⁄2 sack, I think Steelers fans will be presently surprised with Highsmith getting to opposing QBs a handful of times in 2020. While 3 sacks isn't earth shattering, give how much playing time T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree will receive, I believe Highsmith will make the most out of his limited opportunities.
Anthony McFarland Jr.
60 carries, 300 yards, 2 Total TDs
McFarland will see the field a lot more than I think any of us will expect (especially if he forces Jaylen Samuels out of Pittsburgh). He will be featured in Matt Canada’s famous jet speed motion, the passing game, and as a change of pace runner I believe this offense desperately missed. If anyone has the potential to smash the numbers I'm predicting — it’s defiantly McFarland.
4 Games played, 2 Starts
While offensive line doesn't have the sexiest stat lines to predict, I do believe the team struck gold with this pick. The heavy handed Dotson will keep Matt Feiler out at tackle and push Stefen Wisniewski for the starting left guard spot, don't be surprised if he does it.
Antoine Brooks Jr.
16 Games played, 8 special team tackles
Brooks won't find himself in a starting safety spot in 2020, even if in the case of injury the safety market is deep and with the Steelers in win-now mode I don't imagine they turn to its sixth round pick for starts down the stretch. That being said, he will contribute as a special teamer and may see the field in both the secondary and at linebacker depending on the package.
The Steelers d-line features a lot of quality players and the team continues to mention how the game has evolved away from the nose tackle position. Neither of these things bode well for Davis, who is likely destined for a red shirt year.
Do you think you can predict the lines? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. But be prepared as I plan on revising this article at seasons end to see who hit the mark and who was way off in left field!