You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.
In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.
When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.
Topic: Was the selection of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster a ‘need’ pick on the part of the Steelers?
At this point it’s hard for me to keep track of what has been discussed more as The Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened To The City Of Pittsburgh: a quarterback in the fourth round, a long snapper in the sixth, or a wide receiver in the second.
These three dreaded players have been a lightning rod of criticism for some—though, to be clear, far from everybody, with the possible exception of poor Colin Holba—but hypothetically most damaging was the selection of a wide receiver with a premium pick if it wasn’t one that was as valuable relative to the position as another option could have been.
Smith-Schuster, still just 20, had a productive college career catching balls for Cody Kessler and last year from Sam Darnold, going for 10 touchdowns a year in his last two seasons. He is big-bodied and said to excel in making combat catches and jump balls.
That’s certainly something the Steelers have needed. If there’s anything that has been a universal criticism among the wide receivers in recent years, it has been a lack of competitiveness on contested passes. Kevin Colbert even said that they felt they were lacking this. That combined with his blocking ability gives the Steelers some qualities at the position they felt they needed and lacked, so by that token, it was a ‘need’ that they sought to fill.
But the wide receiver room is not lacking for talent…it’s just filled with uncertainty. Will Martavis Bryant be able to keep himself available? Will Sammie Coates look more like he did at the start of last season with time to rest his hand? Will Eli Rogers continue to grow into a dynamic slot receiver? And what can Justin Hunter contribute?
There’s no doubt about it that the Steelers have a deep wide receiver room right now. They have a lot of rosterable players, not all of whom will be able to make the roster. But how many of them make other teams take pause and consider where they are on the field?
Which side do you lean closer toward?