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2020 NFL Draft

Possible Day 3 Targets for the Steelers

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The Steelers have their first two players on board. With Chase Claypool and Alex Highsmith now officially the Steelers day two picks, wide receiver and outside linebacker can officially be crossed off as needs going forward into day three. However, the Steelers certainly have some needs to get at with four remaining picks on day three. Here are some players that they could target on day three on the NFL Draft.

Safety: K’Von Wallace, Geno Stone, Kenny Robinson, Alohi Gilman

Safety is a need the Steelers will have to address. With limited depth behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers will look to get some insurance in case either one of their starting safeties should get injured. They also have a need for a subpackage body in the middle of the field with Mark Barron out.

Out of all the ones listed, Wallace is the best one by far. He is a highly instinctive, athletic safety that will be doing great work in the box and in deep halves of the field in a Cover 2 scheme. Wallace displays some hip tightness but can man guys up in the slot and is a fantastic tackler.

New Castle native Geno Stone is another intriguing option. Unlike Wallace who is more versatile, Stone is going to be pigeonholed into the box due to athleticism concerns laterally. However, his instincts are elite and he has ball skills to go and make some interceptions. Kenny Robinson, former XFL and West Virginia safety, is another guy with a ton of ball skills. There is a lot to like about Robinson as a single-high safety.

Alohi Gilman, on the other hand, is another box guy who does not have ball skills at all. With Gilman it is all hearts and smarts right down to the core of his game. He hits hard, has great click and close, and fits the run as well as anyone in the class.

Offensive Line: John Simpson, Kevin Dotson, Prince Tega Wanogho, Saahdiq Charles

Consider this one another likely route that the Steelers could look at in the fourth-round. With Stefen Wisniewski signed, the Steelers do have some nice depth here but they need another key option to solidify that depth in case of an injury on the interior. They could also look at tackle since it most certainly is a future need after 2020.

Simpson and Dotson are two powerful linemen that will just push guys off their spot and out of their gaps. It is impressive to watch them. Both men have their best trait down as power and hand usage, as they often place it in the middle of the shoulder pads and have violent hands with good grip strength. Looking at both, however, they lack flexibility and are not great movers in space. Simpson is the better of the two athletes and can move well in space, while Dotson does have some labored footwork while trying to reach the second level. Still, they are excellent scheme fits for the Steelers.

Tega Wanogho is a massive offensive tackle with elite length. In addition to that, he has good movement skills and great power at the point of attack. There is no doubt that at this point he is fantastic value and could be a swing tackle as he has experience at both right and left tackle while playing at Auburn.

Charles is an elite athlete at tackle. Simply put, he has smooth footwork and great mobility on pulls, moving in space, and reaching into the second level. The grip strength he also shows off in pass protection and run blocking is impressive. His hand placement must improve and his football IQ has to improve as well. Charles may not be a plug-and-play guy day one but he does not have to be that either. He has upside and could start a year from now.

Linebacker: Akeem Davis-Gaither, Evan Weaver, Shaun Bradley

Akeem Davis-Gaither is by far the best player on the board right now. With great athleticism, instincts, and elite coverage ability, Davis-Gaither is a guy that should have gone off the board long ago on day two. If he makes it to 124, this pick should be a no brainer for the Steelers. Davis-Gaither would be the value steal of the draft at the linebacker position no matter how it is sliced up.

Evan Weaver and Shaun Bradley are two guys the Steelers have met with over the course of the process but could not be any more different as players and prospects. Weaver is a Tyler Matakevich clone. A productive tackler with great instincts but simply lacking in athleticism in all facets on tape. Bradley is a great athlete who has fluidity and can carry tight ends up the seam in coverage. However, he is a shaky tackler and is as raw as sushi mentally when he reads through his keys.

Running Back: Eno Benjamin, Sewo Olonilua

The Steelers passed on both Cam Akers and JK Dobbins for Claypool and as such are still certainly in the market for a running back in this class if they see it fit.

Benjamin is a complete running back that struggles with doing too much in the backfield at times. Watching his tape he just needs to be more decisive and trust his instincts that are most often right. However, he runs with lots of physically and has soft hands out of the backfield with good pass protection ability as well. He could certainly fit the bill here.

Olonilua had a ton of meetings with the Steelers over the course of the process and is a massive running back. Aside from his size and physicality, Oloniulua has good burst and quickness for his size, which is a boon to his prospects. As a receiver, Olonilua has a healthy route tree and soft hands. In the later rounds on day three, this could be a route the Steelers look at.

Defensive Line: Leki Fotu, Bravvion Roy

These two options make a lot of sense if the Steelers are looking towards getting a nose tackle to fill the spot that Javon Hargrave once occupied. The need is certainly there even if the Steelers have not met with almost any of the defensive lineman that they could be interested in throughout the process.

Fotu is a juiced-up nose tackle that has great run defense capabilities due to a great anchor and fantastic strength at the point of attack. The guy knows how to stack and shed blocks and control the point of attack with great field awareness and gap integrity. His pad level, however, can swell and he does have issues with his pass rush plan that does lower his ceiling.

Roy, on the other hand, has a good deal of upside and could be had with a sixth-round pick. An explosive, strong player, Roy would not only bring a massive run-stuffer to the middle of the Steelers defense, but he brings a developmental prospect that is run stuffer from day one and could develop pass-rush upside with his physical and athletic tools as well.

 

2020 NFL Draft

Chase Claypool Signs Steelers Contract

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Steelers top draft pick Chase Claypool has signed his rookie contract. Claypool posted to his personal Twitter account a photo of him signing the contract on Wednesday night.

According to Tom Loy of 247 Sports, Claypool signed a four-year contract worth $6.6 million, including a $2.4 million signing bonus.

The Steelers drafted Claypool out of Notre Dame with the 49th overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. A 6-foot-4, 238-pound receiver from British Columbia, Claypool caught 150 passes for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns with the Fighting Irish.

With Pittsburgh, he’s expected to immediately contribute, joining Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington at the top of the Steelers’ wide receiver corps.

Claypool is the third member of the Steelers’ 2020 draft class to sign his contract, joining third-round outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and fourth-round running back Anthony McFarland, Jr.
The Steelers rookies are in the process of reporting to training camp, which will begin fully at Heinz Field on July 28.

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2020 NFL Draft

Film Study: Alex Highsmith Brings Juice to Steelers Pass Rush

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The Steelers surprised more than a few people by taking an outside linebacker in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Coming into the draft, it was a position that could be addressed due to the looming contract of Bud Dupree, who is on a one-year rental contract on the franchise tag. Seeing as the Steelers have a plethora of contracts to take care of in the next year, Dupree may be on his way out. Even then, with Anthony Chickillo gone, the Steelers needed to address the depth and get a rotational pass rusher.

All of that is taken care of now as they selected Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith, who was an uber-productive pass rusher who was a standout all week at the East-West Shrine Game in Tampa. Given what he has put on tape, his selection is not a surprise and the Steelers hit a home run with the pick of Highsmith, who put up quality tape not just against teams in the Conference USA, but also against a top team such as Clemson.

Highsmith’s Tape

The one developing area of Highsmith’s game is his counters and pass rush moves. There are a few moves that he employs to win and starting last season, a spin move was one of the ways he won inside as offensive tackles overset for his speed rush. Highsmith has a few defining traits to his game, but there is no doubt that his explosive first step is a key one. He gets off the line and up the arc in a hurry because of his explosive first step. The good thing is that he is not simply a speed rusher. While that is how he wins most of the time, he can pull off nifty moves like this. Clemson tackle Jackson Carman oversets expecting the speed rush from Highsmith, but instead, he takes his pass rush angle up the arc and bends it back inside on that spin move.

One thing that was telling on the Clemson tape was just how much they prepared for Highsmith. Carman is a good tackle and a potential first-round pick in 2021, but Highsmith gave him fits all day long. They chipped Highsmith with tight ends and kept running backs in just in an effort to try and stop him. This play above shows off his first step. He has rocket shoes on his feet on this play as he beats Carman to his spot. If not for a quick three-step drop and throw from Trevor Lawrence, this may have been a sack for Highsmith off his explosiveness alone.

Run defense is a part of Highsmith’s game that is inconsistent, but as his hand usage has improved, so has his run defense. This play is one where he shows he can take advantage of a tackle’s mistakes. Carman is flat-footed and lunges towards Highsmith rather than driving through his chest, allowing Highsmith to be nifty and zoom right on by here. That is part of the reason his explosiveness causes so many problems. However, he does a nice job of executing a chop-rip to slice down the line to make a tackle. Based on the film, the chop-rip combination is Highsmith’s go-to move.

Here is the chop-rip again, this time for a sack. Highsmith does a great job of nailing his hand right inside the tackle’s pad, which is almost always certain death for a tackle. The ability to rip around the edge and make this arc tight is something that Highsmith is really good at doing. Still, this is more about his burst and hand usage combination that allows him to win.

This is exactly how Highsmith recorded most of his sacks, however. When the Steelers drafted him, they likely bet not just on his improvement as a strategist with his counters and moves, but his combination of burst and bend to destroy set angles and win around the edge with his speed rush. He does that extremely well here as he sets his pass rush angle up as if he was going to come here with some power move such as bull rush. However, his lateral agility allows him to cut back outside and use his explosiveness to get the angle. After that, it is all flexibility in his ankles. The ankle flexion he gets is really great on that lead leg. It bends and leads under his shoulders and hip to allow him to dip and reduce his surface area on his way to getting this sack.

Highsmith’s Overview

The Steelers’ selection of Highsmith may have been their best pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His combination of burst and bend makes him a perfect fit for the 3-4 outside linebacker scheme. With the Steelers rushing their outside linebackers more than ever, Highsmith is a great fit to provide more pass rush upside in the rotation than anyone since Jason Worilds. With his improvement in his pass rush plan and hand usage, HIghsmith could be a starter in 2021 if Dupree walks after the 2020 season.

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2020 NFL Draft

Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft

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Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.

Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.

“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”

With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.

Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.

Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.

“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”

Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.

“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”

Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.

It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.

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