2020 Offseason Questions: How Important Is Insulating WR Position This Offseason?

Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

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: How important is it that the Steelers address their wide receiver depth and insulation this offseason?

We have already long ago reached the point in which teams have to have three starting wide receivers, and three starting cornerbacks. The base offense is now 11 and the base defense is now nickel. That’s just the reality of the game.

So you have to have at least three good wide receivers. The Steelers do believe they have their top three in their most recent draft picks, JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017, James Washington in 2018, and Diontae Johnson in 2019.

But what happens if one of them gets injured? They had this issue last year when Smith-Schuster missed several games. Who will they have? Ryan Switzer? Deon Cain? Johnny Holton? The team ended up playing Tevin Jones, who was later released and replaced with Amara Darboh, who was inactive for his one game on the roster.

During the offseason a year ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked about the wide receiver depth that they had and that they wanted to run a fast-tempo offense with a lot of interchangeable parts. It’s not clear that they even have enough quality parts to do much changing.

More pragmatic is the insulation of the position against injury. It’s fair to say that they really should address the position at some point this offseason to add another quality body. But how big of a priority is this?

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