With the 2018 season completely in the books and 2019 staring us down just around the corner, it’s time to pause and take stock of the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers by looking at their roster as it stands now, going position by position.
The new league year officially begins on March 13, and coincides with the start of free agency. Between now and then, the Steelers figure to make a couple more decisions about what the roster will look like, including the signing of a couple more of their pending unrestricted free agents. There are a few other loose ends to tie up before then as well.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total Positional Figure: 11
Antonio Brown: He might be the best wide receiver in the NFL, but the overwhelming likelihood is that he will have to learn to catch passes from another arm in 2019. That’s what he wants, and it’s hard to envision the team not obliging at this point.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: One of the reasons the team can afford to do that is because of JuJu’s emergence as a legitimate Pro Bowler on his own. He will have to prove two things in 2019, however. One, to play without Brown’s help and continue to excel; two, to play outside consistently and win the physical matchups.
James Washington: The Steelers already made the investment in the second round last year in James Washington, who was replacing Martavis Bryant. Now he has to be the number two. His disappointing rookie year started to turn around late, so they’ll hang their hats on that for now.
Eli Rogers: Rogers spent most of the year on the PUP list before being activated late. When he was active, he played and contributed, but it was hard to settle him into a role.
Ryan Switzer: Switzer was only brought in late, but he slowly found ways to contribute, and can feature in four- and wide-receiver sets in the future.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Will the Steelers continue to have room for the special teamer, who is scheduled to be a free agent after 10 seasons in the league? He still has the speed, but they need to add competition.
Justin Hunter: After two years and seven catches, Hunter’s time in Pittsburgh is probably done. He spent most of it sitting on the bench.
Tevin Jones: A 2018 futures signing, the 6’2” Jones solidified his spot on the practice squad with three catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason finale during his third NFL offseason. He stayed on the squad all year.
Trey Griffey: As did the son of Ken Griffey, Jr., Trey. The 6’3” receiver’s 2018 preseason was a bit more consistent but less productive. He caught four passes over three games for 44 yards. He was signed to the practice squad and also stuck all season.
Ka’Raun White: Signed as a futures player at the start of January, White comes from a football family but spent his rookie year bouncing around teams and was not on a practice squad.
Diontae Spencer: Another early January futures signing, Spencer is a 5’7” return specialist from the CFL. As you might guess, he has great speed, which he needs at 173 pounds. He originally came out in the 2014 NFL Draft but spent the next four years in Canada.
Offseason Strategy: Trade Brown, draft on day two
The obvious story of the wide receiver position is Brown and the aftermath of dealing him. The team should hopefully recoup at least a third-round pick for him, which they can use to draft another wide receiver to add to the mix. They may also consider signing a veteran to a one-year deal to compete with Washington for a starting role.