It feels pretty safe to conclude that the Pittsburgh Steelers would like to pick up a skill position player today, either at wide receiver or at running back. My preference would be for a wide receiver, but if the running back doesn’t come at 49, it’s hard for me to buy into bringing in yet another third-round talent. They already have a heaping helping of mid-round running back talents.
A running back is a position for which you could more easily plug and play as a year-one contributor. Wide receivers can take more time. For every JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, there is a James Washington and Antonio Brown. For every Mike Wallace, there is a Markus Wheaton. For every Martavis Bryant, a Sammie Coates.
For running back, if you have the snaps to spare, a rookie running back will be able to absorb them, if he is an NFL-quality runner. There isn’t a lot that you have to teach about running the ball transitioning from college to the pros, which is not always the case—often is not—for wide receivers and running routes and working off defenders, many of whom likely faced almost exclusively man coverage.
Of the wide receivers named above, they still have Smith-Schuster, Washington, and Johnson—all of whom were selected between picks 60 and 66 over the course of the past three draft classes. Unless they move down in the second round, the latest wide receiver, if chosen, would come even higher, at 49.
And if it should come at that position, Rod Woodson has his preference in what he’s looking for. “Speed kills”, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Can you find a speed receiver in the second round? I would prefer someone who is fast, someone who can play in the slot or play outside, someone who can play everywhere”, the Hall of Famer who made a living defending wide receivers said.
“You have JuJu, who is big and good in the red zone. But when you find a quick receiver, it helps. You can ask any defensive back, and they’ll tell you the quicker and faster receivers are harder to defend because they can create separation”.
Johnson fulfills some of those qualities, but he is an outside receiver, not a slot presence. Smith-Schuster saw a career-high percentage of his snaps in the slot last season, in case you were wondering, with Washington and Johnson occupying the outside posts.
Though the team does have three pedigreed wide receivers in-house, three hasn’t been enough in the NFL for at least the past several years. You need at least four that you can rely upon. Plus, Smith-Schuster’s contract is up after this year, and soon after, they will have to decide between the others. It’s always good to keep the pipeline supplied at perhaps the second-most important offensive position in football.