3 Steelers Named to PFF’s All-Pro Team

TJ Watt

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a tackle for loss against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 21, 2020.

On Monday Pro Football Focus (PFF) named its 2020 NFL All-Pro Team and three Pittsburgh Steelers were included. The list is headlined by outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who “has a very real Defensive Player of the Year case,” notes PFF’s Sam Monson, thanks in part to his league-leading 15 sacks and “the second-best pass-rush win rate (23.7%) among edge rushers.”

PFF has also named two Steelers as second-teamers, those being defensive end Cameron Heyward and kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud, the latter of which speaks to the paucity of great kick returners this year and the diminished importance of the kick return game in today’s NFL.

McCloud has returned 28 kickoffs for 646 yards, with an average of 23.1 yards per return and a long of 49. He also has 29 punt returns for an average of 10.3 yards with a long of 57 yards.

For what it’s worth, Heyward and McCloud finished behind first-teamers Chris Jones (Kansas City Chiefs) and Cordarrelle Patterson (Chicago Bears), with the aforementioned T.J. Watt ahead of second-teamer Demarcus Lawrence (Dallas Cowboys).

PFF’s Top 25 NFL Rookies

On Wednesday PFF announced its list of the top 25 rookies from the 2020 NFL season, this in the wake of relating its 2020 All-Rookie Team, which includes three Steelers.

PFF regards Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith as among the Top 25 rookies in the league, rated at No. 14 and No. 16, respectively.

“Claypool opened his rookie year with a few huge games and closed out the regular season with another big one,” notes Anthony Treash. “Claypool actually saw more deep targets than anyone in the NFL, including plays nullified by penalty. He may have ranked only 11th in total deep receiving yards (347), but Claypool drew two more defensive pass interferences on deep targets than anyone in the league (seven). The latter is the second-most we have recorded in the past decade,” offers PFF.

As for Alex Highsmith, “he has been a PFF darling since his days as a Charlotte 49er, where he posted one of the highest pass-rushing grades in the country in his 2019 season (91.4). We haven’t seen that kind of elite production from the third-round rookie at the NFL level, but he has certainly exceeded expectations,” writes Treash.

For what it’s worth, the Cincinnati Bengals also had two rookies on the list, with quarterback Joe Burrow (the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft) at No. 5 and wide receiver Tee Higgins (the No. 33 overall pick) at No. 9. Neither the Baltimore Ravens nor Cleveland Browns have a rookie on the list.

Steelers Offensive Line Rated No. 17 in the NFL

In one other set of notable PFF ratings, the Steelers also finished the 2020 season as the No. 17-ranked offensive line in the NFL. Pittsburgh’s OL finished fourth in pass-blocking grade and 31st in run-blocking grade.

“No team averaged fewer yards per run play (3.6) than the Steelers did this year. It’s a group that could use an injection of youth and talent this offseason,” writes PFF’s Ben Linsey.

By way of comparison, Sunday’s playoff opponent—the Cleveland Browns—have the NFL’s No. 1 ranked offensive line.

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