It’s that time of year again. Free agency is ramping up in just a few weeks, so before we get to that, we’re going to go through the Pittsburgh Steelers roster position by position, assessing what shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might or should attack the list on that basis.
The Steelers are likely to be subject to more changes than usual this year, with more than a dozen players expected to be unrestricted free agents, including many starters. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looms large in all discussions for the foreseeable future.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total position digit: 10
Ju Ju Smith-Schuster: Soon to be an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers have once again said they would like to keep him if possible. Given how the 2021 season has gone for him, he may well face a market so depleted that he has no attractive alternative, but I don’t predict that outcome.
Diota Johnson: Johnson took a big step forward in 2021, going his first 100-1,000 season with eight touchdowns. He’s a Pro Bowl talent with elite traits; however, as we saw at the end of the season, it is still limited with some drawbacks, especially with drops. However, these issues tend to be amplified to a level beyond their real importance; he is still an excellent player without. 1 potential and possibility of evolution.
Chase Claypool: 59 catches for 860 yards isn’t bad for Chase Claypool, but it’s not where he should have come out of his rookie year. The fact that he only entered the end zone twice was a big disappointment. More at issue is its actual band. He doesn’t win in the air like he did in college, although he still makes exceptional plays on occasion. It would be foolish to give it up, although it would be advisable to consider ways to better maximize its skills.
James Washington: Washington will likely run 40 times faster leaving Pittsburgh than he did at the Combine. What he needs now more than anything is an opportunity to have a reliable role somewhere, which he obviously won’t find in Pittsburgh.
Ray-Ray McCloud: An established and solid returning man when holding the ball, McCloud played more than 500 snaps in attack, mostly after the Smith-Schuster injury. However, he averaged just 7.1 yards per reception. As he has grown, one wonders how far he is from his ceiling, which is likely as options and gimmick player number four.
Cody White: After impressing in training camp, White was signed to the practice squad, but was called up to the 53-man roster following the Smith-Schuster injury; he had previously played as an elevation due to other injuries. With 77 total snaps on offense and 105 on special teams, he has the potential to stay as a receiver at the bottom of the roster ready to do the dirty work.
Steven Sims: The Sims previously played for the Commanders before starting the 2021 season on the Steelers practice squad. However, he never really got a chance to contribute, but was held on a term contract to compete for a spot on the roster.
Anthony Miller: Like Sims, Miller is more of a veteran player, and in his case, a former high draft pick, even. His season trajectory, however, has been much the same. It would be interesting to know how the coaching staff sees these two going forward.
Rico Bussey: One of their undrafted rookie free agents, Bussey garnered attention throughout the offseason and served on the initial practice squad, but was soon moved to the injured reserve, where he spent most of the season until the end of December. He was retained for a future contract.
Tyler Vaughn: Vaughns was signed to take Bussey’s place on the practice squad in early September, and he stayed there apart from a few short three- or four-day spells at the end of the year when they had to make adjustments off the roster due to injury and COVID (he spent time on the COVID roster himself). The USC rookie, like Bussey, has height to his advantage; he signed a term contract.
It’s a little unusual to have 10 wide receivers at this point in the offseason without having added any from outside your organization yet, but there are a few factors involved, namely injuries to Smith-Schuster and Bussey, who have opened places for others. .
Yet of those remaining, Johnson, Claypool and McCloud are the only ones you can be sure will make the 2022 Opening Day 53-man roster. Smith-Schuster and Washington are unrestricted free agents, while the others are easily substitutes.
Whether they like it or not, the position has to be on their radar, and with the 40 times this year’s wide receivers depositing at the Combine, it seems like a good time to look at someone fast who can add that dimension. to their offense, which they currently only seem to think they possess. And the free agent market isn’t exactly overflowing with young speedsters.