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The Steelers had a three players in their 2020 draft class that received significant playing time this past year and contributed in Chase Claypool, Kevin Dotson and Alex Highsmith. Claypool had a stellar rookie campaign and was named to Pro Football Writers of America's All-Rookie team.
Claypool finished the regular season with 62 receptions for 873 yards (14.1 average) and nine touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns as well. Claypool tied Franco Harris (1972) and Louis Lipps (1984) for the most touchdowns in franchise history during a rookie season with 11. Claypool's 62 receptions on the season were also the most ever for a Steelers rookie and his nine receiving touchdowns this year were the most among all rookies.
In Week 5 against the Eagles, Claypool scored four touchdowns in the Steelers' 38-29 win over Philadelphia at Heinz Field and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Claypool had seven receptions for 110 yards and three touchdowns, along with a 2-yard run on a jet sweep for a score.
Claypool became the first rookie in team history to score four touchdowns in a game since Roy Jefferson caught four touchdown passes against Atlanta on Nov. 3, 1968, while also becoming only the third player in team history to score 24 points in a game. Claypool was the third player in franchise history to score four touchdowns in a game. Claypool was named the Steelers' Rookie of the Year for his remarkable season.
The one bright spot of the offensive line last year was the emergence of Dotson at both guard positions. By coincidence when the run game was effective early in the year, the two times that Dotson started, both at right guard in place of David DeCastro, the Steelers rushed for over 100 yards. The Steelers rushed for 109 yards against the Broncos in Week 2 and rushed for 129 yards against the Browns in Week 6. In Week 5 against the Eagles, Dotson replaced DeCastro in the first quarter after he suffered an abdomen injury and played 54 snaps in the game. The Steelers ended up rushing for 136 yards against Philadelphia.
Dotson started at left guard the last two games of the regular season in place of Feiler, who suffered a pectoral injury, and the rookie was superb.
Dotson was excellent against the Browns in Week 17. He recorded 46 pass-blocking snaps and allowed a 0% pressure rate, according to Pro Football Focus. The week before against the Colts, Dotson had 50 pass-blocking snaps on the day and didn’t allow a single pressure. Dotson started four games in the regular season (two at right guard and two at left guard) and played 358 offensive snaps. The experience that Dotson gained in 2020 should make him even a better player in 2021.
Alex Highsmith played predominantly on special teams in the early portion of the season and served as a role player. In Week 8 against the Ravens, Highsmith picked off an ill-advised pass from the reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. After Bud Dupree suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 12 against the Ravens, Highsmith filled at the right outside linebacker position for the rest of the season and fared well.
Highsmith finished the season with 48 total tackle, 38 of those being solos, two sacks, five tackles for losses, six quarterback hits, one pass defensed and an interception.
According to PFF, Highsmith's 16.5% pass-rush win rate led all rookie defenders with at least 100 pass-rushing snaps, and he joined Defensive Player of the Year Chase Young of Washington 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.
Both Dotson and Highsmith were named to PFF's 2020 NFL All-Rookie Team. Claypool somehow didn't make the team, as Justin Jefferson of the Vikings, Tee Higgins of the Bengals and Brandon Aiyuk made it over him.
With the Steelers having three rookies that had solid years, you would think they would have been ranked higher on NFL.com's 2020 report card that ranked each team's 2020 rookie class. NFL.com inexplicably had the Steelers 2020 rookie class ranked 22nd with a B-minus. Below is the summary of what NFL.com said about the Steelers rookie class.
"Pittsburgh landed one of the 2020 class' top receivers in Claypool, who should be considered a steal given that he was the 11th WR off the board last year. His 62 receptions for 873 yards and nine touchdowns (plus two rushing touchdowns) added an element the Steelers had missed since the days of Plaxico Burress. Highsmith came on strong late in the season and is trending upward, although he likely needs to add a little bit of weight in the offseason. McFarland found himself stuck behind James Conner and Benny Snell, seeing just 33 rushes in his rookie campaign. Dotson was strong as a rookie, earning a PFF grade in line with that of the New York Giants' Kevin Zeitler, and was especially effective in pass blocking, but will need more reps to continue improving. Brooks didn't see the field except for 10 special teams snaps between Weeks 9 and 17, and 28 defensive snaps in Week 10 against Cincinnati. Davis appeared in seven games but played a mere 54 defensive snaps on the season, recording six tackles (one for loss). He could help provide depth for the interior D-line in the future."
The Steelers got a steal in getting Chase Claypool in the second round after 10 wide receivers were drafted ahead of him and they got great value in selecting Kevin Dotson in the fourth round. He started just four games in 2020, but he was promising and showed that he's the future at left guard. Highsmith also will be the next man up to replace Dupree, as he's unlikely to be re-signed this offseason. In the six games he started to end the season, Highsmith showed that's more than capable of filling the shoes of Dupree.
With all things considered, the Steelers rookie class of 2020 should have been ranked a lot higher than 22 by NFL.com. They should at least be in the top 10. Some of the teams they had ranked ahead of the Steelers just simply didn't make sense.