Steelers Filled Depth Needs While Adding Plenty of Special Teams Talent

The Pittsburgh Steelers found plenty of depth, and plenty of special teams talent, in the 2020 NFL Draft.
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PITTSBURGH -- There seemed to be a theme of the Steelers 2020 NFL Draft, and it wasn't 'best available player'. 

In just six picks, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert filled many, if not all, of their remaining needs. From wide receiver to defensive tackle, the Steelers added depth on both sides of the ball with plenty of potential to support each pick. 

Filling needs still isn't the theme, though. 

What you continued to hear all weekend wasn't what these players could do at their respected position. Yes, there was plenty of praise or confident from everyone about the picks' ability to play on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. But what stood out was their contribution on special teams. 

Starting right from the 49th pick. 

"He's got great size, great speed, he's got great competitiveness," Colbert described Steelers second-round pick Chase Claypool. "We really got up close to him down at the Senior Bowl and the work he did on the special teams really stood out in the practices. Of course we knew about his receiving abilities but when you saw him up close, working the way he did in the special teams in parts of practices, it really showed the competitiveness that this young man has; to go along with his size, his speed, and his receiving abilities."

Then you heard it with third-round pick Alex Highsmith.

"I had an interview with coach Tomlin and Kevin Colbert a couple of weeks ago and they talked to me about really being a special teams guy this year; that guy behind Dupree and Watt," Highsmith said. 

The third-round pick said it himself; he's a "great" special teams player.

"Special teams is something I take pride in," he said, recognizing how the Steelers take it so seriously. "I know how important it is to winning games and how key it is. I think it's another thing that I bring to table is that I'm a great special teams guy. My first two years I played kickoff, kickoff return. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to earn the role I got to play to help this team win games, that's what I'm going to do."

Colbert expects sixth-round pick Antonio Brooks Jr. to be the same way. A player who can play linebacker and safety - although Colbert says that'll be safety in the NFL - but will see a special teams role in 2020. 

"He played a unique position at the University of Maryland that's really relevant to today's NFL, in college football," Colbert said on Brooks Jr. "He's half a linebacker, he's a half a safety; he will be safety in our defense with the ability to play in packages, because that's what he's done and done well. He's very versatile. He should be able to be a special teams contributor as we move along." 

After signing Derek Watt to a three-year, $9.75 million deal - a player who was pushing for a special teams Pro Bowl place last season - it's clear the Steelers have bulked up their kick, punt and return depth for 2020.