There was a time when adding speed on offense was a priority for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It seemed every draft brought a receiver with a sub 4.5/40 time. This culminated in the high powered of 2017 where the dreams of a thirty point per game offense were born. And then it all stopped. Maybe it was because of the high profile flame outs like Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown that led Kevin Colbert to change philosophies. Whatever the reason, the team hadn’t drafted a player on offense with a forty time under 4.5 since Sammie Coates in 2015.
The Dark Years:
In the aftermath of all the turmoil the team suffered over the last five seasons, the Steelers philosophy shifted from drafting athletes to drafting “football players”. Players who had football as their main focus, rather than off the field “activities”. This course of action did lead to the team hitting a couple of home runs in the draft. Players like TJ Watt and Ju Ju Smith-Schuster were perfect examples of this football first mentality the team was looking for. But there is a downside to this way of thinking.
What this also brought was a group of slow, steady offensive players who stifled the offense. The James Washingtons and Jaylen Samuels of the world are solid football players, but not something that can fuel a potent offense. The Steelers speed on offense had taken a serious hit. We wrote about this in February, and the Steelers seemed on the same page: Steelers offense has a need for speed
A New Hope:
The 2020 NFL draft brought not one, but two sub 4.5/40 players to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both Chase Claypool and Anthony McFarland bring some much needed pace to the offense. Kevin Colbert has been busy stocking the practice squad with speed as well. Both Armara Darboh and Saeed Blacknall have posted times of 4.46 and 4.43 respectively. Add in the acquisition of Deon Cain last season, the brand new signing of Wendell Smallwood, and there is definitely a trend happening. https://www.mockdraftable.com/player/wendell-smallwood
2020 – The Season of Speed:
Give Kevin Colbert and company credit for recognizing the issue, and correcting it quickly. The Steelers had a clear deficiency of speed on offense in 2019. The unexpected exodus of players like Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant left them severely lacking in this category. Combine that with the new philosophy of not being so reliant on athletes when drafting offense, and the result was a slow and plodding group. Kevin Colbert has made several moves which should lead to a much more exciting offense in 2020. Add in the return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, and maybe those dreams of a thirty point per game offense can finally become a reality.