The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2018 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total Positional Figure: 11
Antonio Brown: He may have had to take some time off this spring to regather himself mentally, but there is no reason to think Brown isn’t going to be the same stellar player on the field.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: This is a big year for Smith-Schuster, entering a full-time starting job. It doesn’t help that he missed the spring with some sort of injury. He’s got a lot to live up to based on his excellent rookie season. It will be interesting to see how many of his snaps come outside.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: It’s a bit odd having Heyward-Bey’s name at this point on the list, but he is the closest to a sure thing among the players retained from before the draft. The team doesn’t seem to view him much as an offensive player, but they value his skills and leadership.
Justin Hunter: Hoping for another year in Pittsburgh, Hunter has supposedly looked better this spring than he did a year ago, so that’s a start. Even if he can be a competent number four, that would be okay.
Marcus Tucker: But it’s the ‘veteran’ first-year player, Tucker, who in his third offseason is hoping to secure that role for himself. He even spent time running with the first-team offense this spring.
Justin Thomas: Previously a quarterback at the collegiate level, Thomas is now fully committed to wide receiver. He bounced on and off the practice squad as an undrafted rookie last year.
Tevin Jones: A Reserve/Future signing, Jones is still here, but doesn’t appear to have yet distinguished himself in any way.
Trey Griffey: The same can be said of Griffey, who so far remains best-known for who his father is.
James Washington: The Steelers made a splash at the position during the draft, but they had to for reasons I will shortly discuss. Washington is expected to immediately be the Steelers’ number three receiver as a second-round pick. They believe he has the skills and maturity to perform at a high level right away.
Quadree Henderson: An undrafted rookie out of Pitt, Henderson’s only realistic shot of making the roster is excelling as a returner in the preseason.
Damoun Patterson: A rookie minicamp invitee, Patterson earned himself a contract to the 90-man roster by standing out. Tucker took that same path in 2016 and he’s still around, so there’s that.
Martavis Bryant: Oh yeah, the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant for a third-round pick. It was good value considering they knew they wouldn’t be re-signing him, but it is a pretty significant change to their offense that could produce some growing pains. He was rounding into form late in the year after missing the previous season due to suspension.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
The top two positions are settled before we get to Latrobe. Washington knows the number three role is his to lose. Everything else is pretty wide open, and could get even more open if Eli Rogers is re-signed, but he has to get healthy. Hunter versus Tucker (possible versus DHB) may be the most intriguing storyline at wide receiver.