The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the Steelers sign a wide receiver in free agency that will be a primary starter in 2019?
Losing a player like Antonio Brown requires planning to move on when it comes to the on-field portion of the discussion—you know, the part that actually matters to us. Pittsburgh is blessed to have another Pro Bowl wide receiver at their disposal already in third-year JuJu Smith-Schuster, but the Steelers don’t have anybody else who has accomplished much of anything.
Pending what happens with Eli Rogers’ contract (even if it doesn’t toll, his re-signing would seem inevitable), the top of their depth chart looks something like this right now: Smith-Schuster; James Washington; Rogers; Ryan Switzer.
That’s a pretty nice group, but lacks another companion piece, or at least one that has proven capable of being that. As a 2018 second-round pick, Washington has expectations of becoming that sort of player in 2019, but we don’t know if that will actually happen.
There’s a pretty good chance that the team will both sign a player that is capable of competing for a starting job and draft one as well. If everything works out, they could end up having a pretty strong group in the post-Brown world. But as we know, that doesn’t always happen.
A lot of people are pointing to John Brown and Golden Tate, two veteran players who kind of represent the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of what they bring to the table, the former being a deep threat, the latter being—well, an older Smith-Schuster, more or less.
With a free agent addition, a likely high draft choice, and the in-house development of Washington, the Steelers should at least have a puncher’s chance of landing a starting-quality wide receiver to complement Smith-Schuster, even if it doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators the way Brown will do against Raiders opponents.