The Pittsburgh Steelers’ current crop of wide receivers don’t call themselves “young money” the way Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Mike Wallace did in the 2010s. But they’re one of football’s youngest groups overall and these guys are poised to make a lot of money in their NFL career. Talking to reporters Friday, Ben Roethlisberger was asked to compare and contrast the current group with the previous one. While there are on-field similarities, Roethlisberger said the depth of this 2020 group wins out.
“I think the cool thing bout this group is that there’s five of them,” Roethlisberger said via the team YouTube channel. “You talk about those three back then who were all phenomenal football players and had great careers. We have more than just three. You’ve got five guys who can get on the field at any time.”
Those five of course being: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud. Each guy has had big moments this year. Smith-Schuster has settled into a Hines Ward-type of role and emerged as one of football’s best third down options. Johnson is a highlight reel waiting to happen. Claypool is a physical freak with a ceiling no one else on the roster has. Washington seems to make every clutch catch, as he did late Wednesday. And McCloud has given Pittsburgh life in the return game they haven’t had in forever.
The recurring theme for this group has also been its selflessness. One stark difference between the old group and the new one is the lack of an ego. A focus on the team above all else. Roethlisberger again praised the versatility and can-do attitude this group shows.
“And fill in for each other. Play each others spots. Which I think is one of the most special things about the group. Literally you can plug each guy into each position, each role, each route. Which we do a lot of that with the no-huddle, moving guys around. They don’t blink. They don’t second guess. They don’t question. When I say, ‘let’s do this, let’s do that,’ they line up and do it. I think when you talk about this group, the collectiveness of all five of them is what makes them so special.”
In past interviews, Roethlisberger said the team has basically gotten rid of its receiver position names: the X, the Z, the F (slot). Because this group has become so versatile and guys are able to line up in any spot on the field either by design or as part of their no-huddle, create-the-best-matchup approach. It’s ben the key to their offensive success and for long stretches this year,
Nothing Roethlisberger said today takes away from that uber-talented young money group. Arguably, that big three was still the better group pound for pound. But this group feels more complete and certainly a little less chaotic.
Now, it’s a mission to keep the group together as long as possible. The downside to all that talent, just like with Wallace leaving for Miami, Sanders going to New Orleans, is you can’t pay everyone. Smith-Schuster will be a free agent after the season while Washington a free agent after 2021.