2020 Offseason Questions: Was Ike Hilliard Hired For Success With Young WRs?

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: Was Ike Hilliard hired to be the Steelers’ next wide receivers coach based on his ability to get production out of young wide receivers?

As we noted yesterday, following the Steelers’ hiring of Ike Hilliard to be their next wide receivers coach, he was able to get a good amount of production out of young wide receivers last season with Washington. Pittsburgh just so happens to have a bunch of young wide receivers they will be relying upon in 2020.

Hilliard is an interesting choice because he’s not necessarily an old-guard guy—he’s not even very old—but he does come with a pretty solid foundation of NFL coaching experience, and a body of work against which to judge, and he has had some productive guys under him.

Next season’s top three wide receivers for the Steelers in 2002 will all be or be turning 24 years old, those being JuJu Smith-Schuster (the youngest, yet most experienced), James Washington, and Diontae Johnson. It’s fair to say the team didn’t get the sort of production out of their wide receivers a year ago that they would have liked, though there were multiple extenuating circumstances.

The Steelers haven’t had stability at the wide receiver coach position for a while now, since Richard Mann retired, though that’s not exactly anybody’s fault, with Darryl Drake’s untimely passing in August. Perhaps Hilliard can offer a long-term answer, finally.

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