The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers’ current group of wide receivers can rival the Young Money Crew’s time in Pittsburgh.
Explanation: By the time their careers were over (one is still going), all three of the Young Money Crew had made a trip to the Pro Bowl. Antonio Brown is one of the greatest receivers of this era, but most of his achievements came after the Crew’s days in Pittsburgh. This is a comparison of, say, the era between 2009 and 2013, from Mike Wallace’s rookie season to Emmanuel Sanders’ last in Pittsburgh.
Considering that Emmanuel Sanders’ best football came after he was in Pittsburgh, and only Antonio Brown’s 2013 season was really special, I like the chances of this group competing favorably with the Young Money Crew of old. In Wallace’s best season, the first of the YMC in 2010, he gained 1257 yards with 10 touchdowns. He totaled 32 touchdowns during his four seasons in Pittsburgh, which is solid, but not incredible.
The talent that Ben Roethlisberger has around him can duplicate this. JuJu Smith-Schuster needs to get into the end zone more, but we’ve seen what he can do. Roethlisberger is going to have a field day with Diontae Johnson and his ability to get open, and can be a 100-reception sort of player in his own right. That’s not even mentioning James Washington and Chase Claypool, who can emerge as deep threats for this offense.
The window of opportunity for this group is narrow, or can be, depending on how long Roethlisberger plays. Smith-Schuster may well be in his last season in Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t bet on Washington being here past his rookie contract, either. Johnson will be a good one, I think, but Claypool hasn’t even gotten on the field yet.
Injuries were an issue for Sanders during his Steelers career, and Hines Ward’s stature preventing him from moving up in the lineup sooner than he could or should have, which has to be taken into consideration as well.