Despite not having a first round pick this season, two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class made Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie team. Those two were OLB Alex Highsmith and OG Kevin Dotson.
All year, PFF has praised Dotson for his pass protection. Coming out of college, Dotson was known for his run-blocking and nicknamed the “People Mover.” But his pass protection has been stellar all season and one reason, why we wrote this morning, the Steelers did such a historic job protecting their quarterback.
Here’s part of what they wrote:
“Dotson dominated in one area of his job — pass protection. Dotson only drew four starts on the season and played just 358 offensive snaps total, but in that time on the field, he was one of the better pass-blocking interior offensive linemen in the league.
Dotson allowed just one pressure — a hurry — the entire season in 206 pass-blocking snaps. That 0.5% pressure rate allowed is the lowest by any rookie offensive lineman with at least 150 pass-blocking snaps in the past 10 seasons. Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball out as quickly as he did played a role there, but Dotson deserves his credit, as well.”
In fact, they criticized him for a below average run-blocking grade, though that’s a statement you can make about virtually any of the Steelers’ offensive linemen. According to our sack breakdown, we charged Dotson for just a half-sack the entire season. He wasn’t functioning as a 16-game starter but his performance in pass pro was impressive, especially facing the tough competition he saw when he did play. He’s almost guaranteed to be the team’s starting left guard for 2021.
Highsmith also made the list as one of PFF’s top edge rushers. They wrote:
“His 16.5% pass-rush win rate led all rookie defenders with at least 100 pass-rushing snaps, and he joined Young as one of two rookie edge defenders with more than 10 run stops — tackles that are considered “wins” for the defense based on down and distance. Highsmith had 18 such tackles.”
Highsmith has improved week after week and played well in Sunday’s finale against the Browns. He finished the game with nine tackles, three pressures, and one sack. Twice, he beat left tackle Jedrick Wills twice with an inside spin move.
Alex Highsmith yesterday vs the Browns.
– 9 tackles
– 3 pressures
– 1 TFL
– 1 sack
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) January 4, 2021
Though it’ll surprise some, Chase Claypool didn’t make the list. That’s less of a slight against him and more a realization of how strong this rookie WR class is. There, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, and Brandon Aiyuk all made the cut ahead of Claypool. Jefferson had a record-breaking season but there was a case to be made to place Claypool above Higgins (Claypool had five more touchdowns) and Aiyuk (Claypool had more receptions, yards, and touchdowns).
All three players will have key roles on the Steelers next season. Dotson, Highsmith, and Claypool will enter the year as starters after beginning their careers as backups. Elsewhere in the Steelers’ rookie class, RB Anthony McFarland should have a clearer path to playing time, Antoine Brooks’ role should grow, and Carlos Davis will return to fight for rotational snaps along the defensive line.