The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Who will be the Steelers’ fourth wide receiver this season?
The team is obviously confident in who their top two wide receivers are. The fact that they were willing to trade Martavis Bryant was a clear vote of confidence in second-year pro JuJu Smith-Schuster, and, well, Antonio Brown has been a given since 2011.
They are also placing their wagers on rookie second-round draft pick James Washington, it seems, who is likely earmarked for an early role as the number three wide receiver, or at least in the rotation as the third wide receiver, as was the case for Smith-Schuster a year ago.
But who is behind them? current options on the roster are Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, and Marcus Tucker, while there seems to be a pretty reasonable chance that Eli Rogers will be re-signed if he proves to the team he is healthy.
It’s hard to give a player not currently the roster the edge in a personnel battle, but Rogers may well be the most likely player to serve as the team’s fourth receiver this season. He was the Steelers’ primary slot receiver in 2016, and spent most of last year operating as the number four as well—even the three often, with injuries and benchings for all three of the top guys factoring in.
But he might not even get re-signed. And if he doesn’t, provided that it’s not for health reasons, it would probably be thanks to Tucker, who has spent time on the practice squad for the past two seasons and has been quietly impressing the coaches. Add in some special teams contributions and many believe he will make a push for a roster spot this year.
Pittsburgh did re-sign Hunter even though he didn’t play much last year. He was brought in as a bit of an insurance policy and one they didn’t have to use. But he reportedly had a good team-first attitude his first time around. You need to have some humility that far down the depth chart.