It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
We’ll be suspending the Stock Watch series during this time, at the end of which we should have more meaningful topics to discuss once we resume, since a lot more news about free agency and its ripple effects should be current by then. In the meantime, we go back over the current makeup of the team’s roster, and assess where they are strong, or weak.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total Positional Figure: 10
JuJu Smith-Schuster: A Pro Bowler coming off a major down year for many reasons, not the least of which being injuries. But we have seen what he can do in the past. This is also a contract year.
James Washington: Came up in a fairly significant way during his second season, despite the quarterback play, and led the team in receiving yards. Can he reach his potential in year three?
Diontae Johnson: More or less admitted he was a little in over his head as a rookie, but he led the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns. Already perhaps the team’s best route runner, Johnson has a lot of promise.
Ryan Switzer: Switzer could be holding onto a roster spot by the skin of his teeth, if at all. He had already been phased out offensively prior to his injury and now Johnson and others threaten his return jobs.
Johnny Holton: Signed last year to play special teams, he did just that and did it well. He doesn’t offer much more than that. All around is a Darrius Heyward-Bey Lite model.
Deon Cain: Signed off of the Colts’ practice squad with six games to go and made a handful of plays. He has size and speed and intrigue. Are they able to develop Cain?
Amara Darboh: After injuries at the position, the Steelers added a bunch of wide receivers. Darboh was signed to the practice squad in mid-November. He was promoted to the 53 for the final game but did not dress.
Quadree Henderson: A prior undrafted free agent, Henderson was signed to the practice squad the same day as Darboh. He was re-signed to a futures contract at the end of the year.
Jamal Custis: Custis was signed to the practice squad a month after the others, and like Henderson, was signed to a futures contract the same day, at the end of the season.
Anthony Johnson: Johnson is the only player who had no time spent with the Steelers previously that they have added to the 90-man roster since the end of last season. A 2019 undrafted free agent, he signed with Tampa Bay, spent the year with the Chargers on the practice squad, and then signed with Pittsburgh to a futures contract after that.
It would be too expensive to address wide receiver in free agency, but it’s a safe bet that they will draft another wide receiver, perhaps on the second day of the draft for the fourth consecutive year. Smith-Schuster, Washington, and Johnson could be a nice core, but as a whole, the group remains young and largely unproven. They’re the only ones whose roster spots are safe.