The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise has a reputation for drafting an developing talented wide receivers throughout its history. Some of the greatest wide receivers of all time have come through this organization. What is the best Steelers wide receivers group of all time? The current group of wide outs is another story however. Could this position group be a weakness for the Steelers for the first time in well…….forever?
Let’s begin with the starters. Diontae Johnson and George Pickens are potentially a pair of good receivers. Not great, just good. There is no Antonio Brown here. There is no Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, or Davante Adams either. At its best, this will be a slightly above average starting duo. We have long been fans of Diontae Johnson on this site. He is among the best route runners in the game right now. If we are being honest however, he is at best a number two receiver in this league.
As far as George Pickens is concerned, well we don’t know what he is. There is loads of potential, but he must prove he is more than just a 50/50 jump ball specialist. At the end of the day, these two would be much better suited as the number 2 and 3 receivers on a very good unit. Not the headliners on what we all hope is a playoff team.
Now to the really concerning part, receivers three through six. This has the makings of a very bad group. Pittsburgh is an injury away from a very serious problem at this position. There are many who are very excited about the acquisition of Allen Robinson. Count us as not part of that group. This is a soon to be 30 year old player coming off a serious injury. His best years are well behind him at this point. Robinson probably does offer some value as a veteran mentor for the young group at his position. As far as tangible impact on the field however, keep your expectations low.
If Robinson were not a big enough question mark, the rest of the room is a hodgepodge of unknown. Gunner Olszewski, and Miles Boykin are special teamers at best. That is unless you enjoy the occasional failed end-around. Hakeem Butler is an intriguing size/speed player, but has yet to make a reception in the NFL since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.
We saved the best for last in terms of backup wide receivers on this roster. Everybody’s favorite mythical deep threat Calvin Austin is probably the next man up if there were to be an injury. He of course missed the entire 2022 season with a foot injury. This is problematic considering the only real trait he brings to the table is elite speed. If that injury knocked his speed down even slightly, it makes this 5’7”, 170 pound player virtually useless. Speed is in fact his entire game. This is not an elite route runner, nor is he in any way a physical specimen. It is too early to tell if there are any lingering issues related to that injury, but it is something that bears watching.
The best case scenario for the Steelers wide outs is that they manage to carve out a slightly above average season. That would entail quite a few things going right all at the same time. There is a very real possibility that this unit could become a weakness in 2023. The depth is poor, and the starters are as we said……good not great. Omar Khan may indeed find himself shopping for a number one receiver as early as the trade deadline. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking possible weaknesses heading into the 2023 season, but it just might end up near the top of the list when all is said and done.
Don’t forget to check out the latest Steelers Sanctuary Podcast here:https://www.buzzsprout.com/1981237/13305251-episode-18-tomlin-press-conference-and-training-camp-day-one