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2018 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Carry 6 WRs Without Bryant?

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: Will the Steelers still carry six wide receivers with Martavis Bryant gone?

While it’s not unheard of, it’s still relatively uncommon for the Steelers to enter a season with six wide receivers on their 53-man roster. Five is the number they tend to stick to, though they have even gone as low as four. And generally, the sixth wide receiver is primarily a special-teamer, with another one or two wide receiver also playing a fairly significant role on special teams.

The 2017 season was one such year in which the team kept six wide receivers, but they were in a year with much greater uncertainty, which they have since resolved. The biggest uncertainty was Bryant last year. Would he remain unsuspended? Would he be able to perform?

His presence in 2018 would have also strongly encouraged the team to carry more because he was virtually assured to be leaving the following year. But now the team has what they hope to be a stable group of wide receivers for at least the next three seasons in Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and now rookie James Washington, though the latter obviously still has to prove himself. But he’s a second-round pick under a four-year contract.

I posed the question yesterday whether or not the Steelers re-signing Eli Rogers once healthy was a foregone conclusion. Most felt that it was and I would tend to agree. Provided that he is healthy by the start of the season, that would give you four wide receivers who had either been very meaningful contributors or whom you expect to be.

And then behind that group is Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Marcus Tucker, Justin Thomas, Quadree Henderson, Jr., and a few other names.

Heyward-Bey has been around for many years. I’m inclined to think that it would require not just one but two of the above players to make the roster in order for Heyward-Bey to be gone. They would try to keep six for his sake. That that would take somebody like Hunter, Tucker, or Henderson doing something significant, most likely on special teams, or otherwise an uncommon lack of need for roster spots elsewhere.

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