While the Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to put themselves in a position in which they are not reliant upon major contributions from their rookie class, they would certainly welcome the ability of at least a couple of them to be able to step up and offer something in 2020.
And there seems to be good news on that front out of training camp, as we have frequently heard glowing reports in particular about the team’s top two draft picks, second-round wide receiver Chase Claypool and third-round outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
Speaking to fans on Steelers Nation Unite earlier today, for example, cornerback Mike Hilton mentioned both of them when asked about his observations of the rookie class and if any of them were able to stick out. “Those two I’m excited to see how they can play for us this year”, he said.
“I do believe Chase is gonna get some playing time”, he initially said of Claypool. “He’s a freakish dude to be that big and that athletic, and the way he’s able to use his body to go up and make some great plays when the ball is up in the year. I feel like the offense is gonna have fun with that new toy”.
The Notre Dame product is coming into a wide receiver room that already has JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson at the top of the depth chart, so he’ll have to find ways to contribute and take advantage of every rep that he is offered.
As for Highsmith, he comes in behind two entrenched starters in T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, but with Anthony Chickillo gone, the top reserve position is up for grabs, and that could mean a couple hundred defensive snaps, as he works against Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, and Jayrone Elliott.
“For a linebacker, watching his pass rush as a rookie, it’s pretty impressive, because you wouldn’t expect a rookie to really have a lot of moves in their resume”, Hilton said of the Charlotte alum. “When he goes out there and gets on the offensive tackle, he’s athletic, he bends well, and he can make a lot of plays”.
Given Dupree’s free agent status beyond this season, it’s imperative that the Steelers find somebody who can pose as a candidate to take over in 2021. That is one of the reasons that they drafted Highsmith, a small-school player who was a late riser on the draft boards.
A great athlete who found production on the edge when finally given the opportunity to get after the passer as a senior, Highsmith looks like he may well have the tools to succeed, particularly in his pass rush. Having that early knowledge of building a repertoire and knowing how to use your hands is a good sign for the future.