PFF 2020 Draft Regrade Exercise: Steelers Improve From B- To A

It’s all fine and dandy for outlets to post their instant draft grades. We live in a content business, and a lot of people happen to eat that kind of thing up — even if it’s hate-reading the absurdity of grading drafts minutes after the final pick is in.

But it’s admirable at least for those who engage in that sort of instant gratification to police themselves and revisit their findings. Pro Football Focus is attempting to do that as they work their way back from some recent draft grades, starting with last year’s, though obviously there still isn’t a lot to say about that class. They’ve already done 2019, however, and presumably will continue to work their way back, so we’ll discuss each revisitation each day.

The outlet initially gave the Steelers a B- grade for their draft class in 2020, which of course consisted of only six selections with no first-round pick, and only one choice in the top 100. That grade has changed substantially, as they are now graded out as a solid A. Only the Minnesota Vikings and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a higher current grade.

While it didn’t look like much at the time, the Steelers may have netted themselves three quality starters despite owning only one top-100 pick in 2020. That’s one hell of a draft. While everyone knows about Chase Claypool by now, Alex Highsmith needs more publicity after putting up 17 pressures in his final five regular-season games after taking over for Bud Dupree. Finally, left guard Kevin Dotson quietly allowed only one pressure on 219 pass-blocking snaps.

Both Highsmith and Dotson made the site’s all-rookie team a year ago, despite their relatively limited snaps, having made only nine starts between them. All three project as full-time starters this year, but all six draft picks remain on the roster, and may perhaps contribute.

Fourth-round running back Anthony McFarland should be over his rookie jitters as his happy feet calm down. It will also help that his college coach, Matt Canada, is now his offensive coordinator, who helped put him in positions to succeed back in 2018.

Seventh-round pick Carlos Davis was a mild surprise to even make the 53-man roster last year. He figures to be the front-runner as the number two nose tackle behind Tyson Alualu. He didn’t play much last year, but he surpassed Isaiah Buggs on the depth chart, and showed some promise.

Sixth-round pick Antoine Brooks Jr. is the only rookie draft pick who didn’t spend the entire season on the 53-man roster, though he was always at least on the practice squad. He was ultimately called up, however, and did log a couple dozen snaps on defense in one game. With Sean Davis and Jordan Dangerfield gone, he seems likely to have a spot waiting for him.

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