The highlight of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers draft was the addition of blazing fast linebacker Devin Bush. His forty time of 4.4 made him the perfect choice for the Steelers defense. Bush joins an already fast group on Pittsburgh’s defense. Players like Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Steven Nelson and Artie Burns are already sub-4.5 guys. The 2019 Steelers defense promises to be one of the fastest in recent memory. The offense on the other hand…..well that’s a completely different story. While the defense boasts five players in the 4.4 range, the offense only has one. This could lead to issues if opposing teams have no deep threat to contend with.
In reality, there is only player on offense with legitimate sub 4.5 speed. That player is free agent signee Donte Moncrief, who ran a solid 4.4 at the NFL draft combine. After him though, no one is really even close. Third round pick Diontae Johnson claims he didn’t really train for the forty yard dash, and is much faster than his 4.53 he ran at his pro-day. He seems more quick than fast on tape. Deontae Spencer is a real burner (4.34/40), but his chances of making the roster are slim at best. So that’s it. Wide receiver is not exactly what you’d call a “fast group” for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even the uber-talented Ju Ju Smith-Shcuster only ran 4.54 at his combine.
Don’t look elsewhere for speed on the Steelers offense either. You will not find any. The running back position is especially slow for this team. Kevin Colbert did nothing to remedy this when drafting Benny Snell in the fourth round. Speed is definitely not his game, running a 4.66/40 yard dash. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels are only slightly faster rounding out the group. The tight end position barely, and I mean barely had one player crack a 4.7/40. Another 2019 draft pick Zach Gentry brings up the rear for the offense running a 4.9.
Obviously speed alone isn’t everything in the NFL. Certainly, players like Ju Ju and James Conner can thrive without elite speed. The league seems to be transitioning to a more explosive type offensive attacks however. Teams like the Chiefs and Rams who have come at you with fast players at multiple positions are good examples of this. Maybe the Steelers plan is to zig while most of the league zags. Building a big physical offense to go against smaller defenses designed to slow down these high powered offenses. In theory that may indeed be a great idea. The New England Patriots did this all the way to a Super Bowl championship last season. Unfortunately copying this philosophy without a quarterback like Tom Brady will be a whole lot more difficult.
The loss of Antonio Brown would be felt no matter who the Steelers brought in to replace him. Not prioritizing a deep threat during the off-season is particularly puzzling however. With Ju Ju Smith Schuster sure to see constant double teams, the overall lack of any real threat on the other side poses a real problem. That’s not even mentioning the loaded boxes the running game will have to deal with. The question now becomes can journeyman Donte Moncrief, or second year player James Washington become “that” guy. If neither can, it will be a long year for the Steelers offense. Kevin Colbert may end up regretting not adding more speed to this offense over the last two seasons.