By: Emily Musella
The Pittsburgh Steelers are notorious for selecting a defensive player as their first-round draft pick. This strategy continued for the Steelers when they traded for Miami Dolphins Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick last season in exchange for a first round and fifth round draft pick. Fast forward to the NFL Draft, some surprises unraveled for the Steel City. Keep in mind that last season the defense was not the problem for the Steelers, the offense was. With that being said, it is clear the Steelers had an offensive state of mind based on their picks below in rounds 2-7.
Round 2: Chase Claypool, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
I’ll admit I was shocked the Steelers pulled the trigger on a WR this early in the draft. With weaponry like Juju Smith-Schuster, emerging players Diontae Johnson and James Washington, I figured we would wait a few rounds as we have in the past, but here we are. The upside, Claypool is a big-man with a height of 6’4” alongside a speed demon mentality. You may see him involved with kick returns alongside Johnson as well. Not to mention the return of Big Ben and his newly acquired WR should give a boost to the offenses production and play style. Overall, the Steelers ranked an extremely dismal 31st in the league for passing last season. As for the Special Teams return game, another disappointing 31st in the league.
Round 3: Alex Highsmith, Edge, Charlotte
This wasn’t a bad pick, but not one to brag about with other teams. Rest assured, if Highsmith can prove he is useful on other important aspects of the game such as special teams, he could find himself suiting up and trekking out on the field within the first few weeks.
Round 4: Anthony McFarland, Running Back, Maryland
This pick right here is essential because with an injury-prone James Conner and the backup primary duo of Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr. struggling last season to get the run-game going, a fresh pair of legs and speed could shake things up. Taking that pressure off the passing-game is huge especially with Big Ben mixing his play calls in the pocket. McFarland is on the smaller side, only weighing 208 lbs and standing at 5’8” but let it be known that Steelers way will bulk him up before touching the field. He is a speed demon that the Steelers desperately need in the backfield. Note to keep in mind, the Steelers ranked 29th in the league last season in the rushing category.
Round 4: Kevin Dotson, Offensive Guard, Louisiana
I wasn’t thrilled with this pick solely because I thought there were better options on the table. This position the Steelers struggled with the past few seasons, so hopefully the physicality and old school play style that Dotson brought in Louisiana can aid the offensive struggles. Giving the QB more time to work with allows audibles and passing completion rates to be more successful if necessary.
Round 6: Antoine Brooks Jr, Safety, Maryland
The safety position prior to the signing of Minkah Fitzpatrick plagued the Steelers the past decade. Big-time plays down field made by opposing teams heavily scarred the team’s chances to secure wins. Though Brooks’ typical style of play is box, he may need to adjust and expand his coverage if he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. It’s no surprise that prior picks at safety have been a bust, but with the emergence of Terrell Edmunds and Jordan Dangerfield, one wonders where Brooks Jr. will land this season. Keep in mind the Steelers managed to rank 3rd overall in the pass defense category last season.
Round 7: Carlos Davis, Defensive Lineman, Nebraska
This is what we call a “roll of the dice” pick because this could either be a slam dunk for the Steelers defense, or a disappointing choice. Weighing at 313 lbs and standing at 6’2”, Davis is a big man with a big opportunity to rack up quarterback hits. However, if he cannot get off the ball quick enough, he made find himself as a benchwarmer. Look for T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward to take the big man under their wing and get his speed up to the Steel standard. As for the run defense, an average 14th ranked spot for the Steelers D last season.