The 2021 NFL Draft is drawing near, which is as fitting a time as any to take a look back at the rookie season of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2020 NFL Draft. While draft analysis begins as soon as the pick is in, we now have a year’s worth of data on these players to gain more compelling insight.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of J.C. Hassenauer and Henry Mondeaux, because while the 2020 season was their first to accrue, they were not true rookies, but rather first-year players.
The Steelers went into the 2020 NFL Draft with just six selections, including no first-round pick after dealing it to the Dolphins in 2019 for Minkah Fitzpatrick. They received a third-round compensatory pick for the loss of Le’Veon Bell. Their natural third-round pick was traded away the year before to move up for Devin Bush.
They swapped fifth and sixth-round picks with Miami for fourth and seventh-round picks, while they sent their previous fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for Nick Vannett. Their other fifth-round pick, which they dealt to Miami, came from the Jaguars in exchange for Joshua Dobbs.
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors, as well.
Player: Carlos Davis
Position: Defensive Tackle
Draft Status: Seventh Round (232nd overall)
Starts: 7 (0 starts)
The Steelers had only six draft picks a year ago, but they managed to make all of them count, even their final, seventh-round draft pick. They used that selection to bring in a physically talented underachiever out of Nebraska (or so was his pre-draft profile) by the name of Carlos Davis.
In spite of the fact that he was coming in through difficult circumstances, with no in-person spring workouts and no preseason, he still managed to make the 53-man roster, unseating veteran nose tackle Daniel McCullers in the process, who was reduced to the practice squad before the Chicago Bears plucked him.
Davis would still spend the majority of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, but over the course of the year, he would overtake Isaiah Buggs on the depth chart as the team’s top backup nose tackle behind Tyson Alualu, a spot he would not relinquish.
A lot of fans are optimistic about the young man’s future after logging six tackles over 54 snaps last season. In fact, he was nearly in for a bigger role this year after Alualu agreed in principle to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars before changing his mind a week and a half later.