The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2020 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp, this time not at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total Positional Figure: 10
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Boy is he in need of a bounceback season. After all, he is hitting free agency in 2021. Smith-Schuster is capable of putting up big numbers—we know because he’s done it. Now he has to prove he can do it again while helping the team win.
James Washington: Where exactly is Washington in his development, and how much more room does he have to grow? He showed some very positive signs of growth last year, even with limitations at the quarterback position. Can he be a 1000-yard guy with Ben Roethlisberger?
Diontae Johnson: Johnson had a very promising rookie season. Some think he can be a star. How quickly can he emerge as a favorite target of Roethlisberger’s?
Ryan Switzer: There is an argument that can be made that Switzer is the team’s number two primary slot receiver. You will not like the argument, but it’s there to be made, and that means he has a chance of making the roster.
Deon Cain: Six games of work and a handful of catches—plus a couple of penalties drawn—have some fans salivating over the idea of Deon Cain as a hidden gem. He’s tall and he’s got some speed, and he’s caught some balls. That’s what we know so far.
Amara Darboh: A former high draft picks who’s bounced around. He spent time on the practice squad but finished on the 53-man roster after Tevin Jones was cut for dropping balls.
Quadree Henderson: Once upon a time, he was a Pitt undrafted free agent. Henderson spent time with the Giants, and by the end of the season found his way back to the Steelers on the practice squad. He’s still around.
Anthony Johnson: Like Darboh and Henderson, Johnson finished the year on the practice squad, but has the least substantial resume. He does have those intriguing physical traits you like in a longshot.
Saeed Blacknail: Blacknail comes from the XFL, signed in April. I don’t know if he has even set foot in Pittsburgh yet. Probably not. Another tall guy with intriguing traits, and, technically, some in-game professional experience.
Chase Claypool: The rookie second-round pick, Claypool is big and tall and can run, even if he timed faster than he looked on tape. The question is how soon he can contribute, thanks to the coronavirus.
Jamal Custis: Custis was yet another wide receiver who was on the practice squad at the end of last season, signed in mid-December. The Steelers released him after the 2020 NFL Draft and the signing of more undrafted free agents than they could carry under the 90-man roster limit.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
Training camp isn’t really going to mean much for JuJu. We know what he can do on grass. His questions are about in-stadium work. Washington? Well, we’ve seen him make impressive catches since his rookie year. But both he and Johnson need to build a rapport with Roethlisberger.
After that, it’s kind of a crapshoot. It will be hard for anybody to catch an eye. You’ve got a bunch of tall guys who can jump up and make plays, but are any of them going to outjump Claypool anyway? Cain has the inside track for a fifth or sixth spot because he’s already done it in-game for Pittsburgh. Guys like Darboh and Blacknail could be sleepers, but they’re really being put behind the 8-ball in this climate.