The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 draft class made history last season, even as one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. For the first time ever, every draft pick saw regular-season game action for the Steelers during the rookie season. Not only have the Steelers not had an entire draft class appear in at least one game at rookies, they have never had an entire draft class all appear in one game for the Steelers at any point in their career. The contributions from their six elections, especially with such a limited training camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is truly remarkable.
When the season started, five of the Steelers six draft picks made the 53-man roster with the only exception being safety Antoine Brooks Jr. Brooks was signed to the Steelers practice squad and elevated to the active roster for four separate games as either a standard elevation or a Covid replacement. At the beginning of December, Brooks was added to the 53-man roster.
As for the other five selections in the 2020 NFL draft, they all remained on the active roster, minus anyone temporary going on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, for the entire season. Every player appeared in a game with Brooks appearing in the fewest with four. Three of the six draft choices started regular-season games in 2020 with Kevin Dotson starting four, Alex Highsmith starting five, and Chase Claypool starting six.
What the Steelers rookie class did in 2020 was truly amazing. What makes it even more of a better story is the fact the Steelers did not have a first-round selection.
So what about the 2021 season? Will all the players make the roster this year?
As we know, in the NFL there’s always somebody out there looking to take someone else’s job. While their first season with the Steelers seemed to be successful, these players still have work to do and should not take their roster spots for granted.
First of all, the three players who started games in 2020 are also pegged to be opening day starters for the Steelers at this time. Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith, and Kevin Dotson should all be considered locks for the Steelers 53-man roster assuming they are all healthy.
As for the other three players, they also have a solid chance of making the roster. Fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland Jr. played in 11 games in 2020 and saw 89 offensive snaps. On the season, McFarland carried the ball 33 times for 113 yards and had six receptions on nine targets for 54 yards. As the Steelers are looking to revamp the running game, it’s not impossible for McFarland to be someone who could be on the chopping block, but it is highly unlikely that the Steelers would not give him at least two seasons to show what he can do in the NFL.
If Carlos Davis can keep from getting into scuffles with teammates on the sidelines, he has the opportunity to continue to earn playing time along the defensive line. Davis appeared in nine games for the Steelers in 2020 where he had one tackle for loss and six total tackles. On the season, Davis saw 54 defensive snaps and two snaps on special teams. Although the Steelers have their entire defensive line returning from 2020, it appears Davis should continue to have one of the spots.
The player who is most likely a question mark is the one who saw the least amount of action last season. As stated before, Antoine Brooks Jr appeared in four games for the Steelers where he had two tackles. In all, he played 29 defensive snaps and 10 snaps on special teams. What Brooks does have going for him right now is the Steelers are not overly crowded at the safety position. Of course, the Steelers could add more players in the upcoming 2021 NFL draft or in free agency. Either way, Brooks will definitely get his chance to showcase his skills in training camp and should be favored to make the roster for 2021.
So while not every player is a lock, every member of the Steelers 2020 draft class has a good chance of making the 53-man roster come Week 1 of the 2021 season. Of course, a lot can change between now and them, and injuries also come in to play, but minus those possibilities each player should have their opportunity this fall.
So what do you think? Do you think all six members of the Steelers 2020 draft class will make the 53-man roster to start the 2021 season? If not, who do you think is on the bubble? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.