With two weeks remaining until all 32 NFL training camps get underway, the annual summer ranking season is in full swing. In fact, on Thursday Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com released his annual offensive arsenals rankings and it’s sure to get some online tradition following the slowest sports day of the year on Wednesday. cutting quickly to the chase, Barnwell has the Pittsburgh Steelers projected 2019 arsenal ranked 15th overall on his list.
Here is what Barnwell currently thinks about the Steelers 2019 offensive weapons other than their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive line.
In a way, it’s a credit to the Steelers that they could lose a top-five running back (Le’Veon Bell) and wide receiver (Antonio Brown) in the same offseason and still have something close to a league-average set of weapons. That’s a product of developing a pair of young stars in James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, both of whom should assume significant workloads as the primary back and top wideout, respectively, in this offense. Jaylen Samuels also flashed as a useful backup behind Conner last season.
No team in the league has a bigger drop-off from the top two to the rest of their weapons. Vance McDonald had his best season as a pro by a comfortable margin in 2018, but the former 49ers draftee has missed nearly a quarter of his pro career with injuries and hasn’t played a full 16-game slate. Donte Moncrief is still only 25, but he has yet to top 800 receiving yards in a season. The best bets for a breakout are 2018 second-rounder James Washington and 2019 third-rounder Diontae Johnson. Pittsburgh’s track record in developing Brown, Smith-Schuster, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace and Martavis Bryant out of the middle rounds of the draft over the past decade suggests that one of the two should turn into a valuable contributor, even as early as this season.
Other than Barnwell stating that ‘no team in the league has a bigger drop-off from the top two to the rest of their weapons,’ it’s hard to take much of an issue with what else he wrote about the Steelers. Additionally, while it’s true that Steelers tight end Vance McDonald has had problems staying healthy so far in his NFL career, when he has been able to suit and play, he’s paid dividends. We saw that firsthand just last season in the 15 games that McDonald played in. That said, it’s understandable for Barnwell to err on the side of caution when it comes to McDonald and his prospects of playing another 15 games in 2019.
Barnwell also not being overly bullish on new Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief is also understandable due to what all he’s put down on tape in the NFL to date. It will now be interesting to see if Moncrief can have a career year as a result of him now playing with one of the NFL’s top quarterback in Roethlisberger. It’s also quite evident in Barnwell’s quick and dirty thoughts on the Steelers that he can see either one of the team’s two young wide receivers, James Washington and Diontae Johnson, developing quickly into a key contributor on offense in 2019.
Barnwell’s overarching thoughts aside, it’s still tough to swallow seeing him rank the Steelers behind the likes of the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals and especially with quarterbacks not being factored into the equation. In short, Barnwell essentially views the Steelers current offensive arsenal minus Roethlisberger and the offensive line just meh. I wonder where he would rank the Steelers entire offense. Hopefully much higher than 15th overall.
For whatever it;’s worth, Barnwell had the Steelers 2018 arsenal ranked fourth overall and ahead of the 2017 season he had them ranked as the second-best in the NFL. Basically, Barnwell dropped the Steelers 11 spots from a year ago because they traded away wide receiver Antonio Brown. That sounds like too big of a drop.