One Steeler Named to Analyst’s Midseason All-Rookie Team

Alex Highsmith Steelers

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Alex Highsmith of the Pittsburgh Steelers and teammate Marcus Allen celebrate after the Titans miss a game-tying field goal attempt on October 25, 2020.

On Wednesday Pro Football Focus unveiled its 2020 Midseason All-Pro Team, as well as its Midseason All-Rookie Team. Six of the 20 players on its All-Rookie team are from the AFC North, with one Pittsburgh Steelers rookie among them.

But it’s not wide receiver Chase Claypool, who already has 31 catches for 444 yards and five touchdown receptions, as well as two rushing touchdowns. Instead, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith was honored in the edge rusher category, along with Washington’s Chase Young, the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

As it turns out, it’s something of a backhanded compliment, with PFF’s Michael Renner noting that that rookie edge class has been “dreadful.” This isn’t to say that Highsmith isn’t deserving of praise, but Renner reminds us that he’s a sub-package player with only 97 snaps to date, over which time he’s been credited with 11 tackles, one sack and one interception. Yet the third-round pick out of Charlotte has earned solid grades from PFF and “we’re excited to see what he can do with more playing time,” wrote Renner.

PFF’s All-Rookie Wide Receivers

If you’re wondering who beat out Claypool for the two wide receiver spots on PFF’s All-Rookie Team, that would be: Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, who is on pace for 1,254 receiving yards and is second in the NFL at 3.12 yards per route; and Tee Higgins (#85) of the Cincinnati Bengals, who is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds and already has 33 catches for 488 yards and three touchdowns. Higgins was selected with the first pick of the second round out of Clemson, 16 picks before Claypool.

Other AFC North Representatives

Higgins is joined on the list by the player who throws him the ball every Sunday. That is, quarterback Joe Burrow, who was taken first overall in the 2020 draft. Burrow “ranks 13th in passing grade among all starters in the NFL and has done it behind the 26th-ranked pass protection in the league,” advises Renner.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns have two rookies on PFF’s list, namely left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., who “has been just what the doctor ordered for the Cleveland Browns offense,” says Renner.

Tight end Harrison Bryant is Cleveland’s other representative, but mostly because it’s slim pickings in terms of rookie tight ends, as he has just 151 receiving yards. “Bryant has been the talented route-runner he was billed as coming out of FAU, and he’s broken four tackles on 15 receptions,” offers Renner.

Last but not least, the Baltimore Ravens have one player on PFF’s Midseason All-Rookie Team, that being linebacker Patrick Queen, who has had “an up-and-down year,” notes the author. But any issues he’s had in regards to coverage and tackling have been overshadowed by his playmaking ability. To date, Queen has been credited with 38 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He was selected 28th overall out of LSU.

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