The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense, and multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quote with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.
Question: Who will lead the Steelers in each major receiving category this season?
It can be debated where the Steelers’ receiving corps ranks in terms of overall quality, but I’m not sure there are many teams in the league who have a top four that are as evenly talented as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington, the latter of whom certainly seems to have more to contribute than he will be afforded opportunities to produce.
Last season, Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions. Johnson led in receiving yards with 923. Smith-Schuster and Claypool tied with nine receiving touchdowns, though the latter added two more in the postseason, and also had two rushing scores.
How will that all sort itself out this year? Will the numbers be too similar to distinguish? All three of them recorded over 800 receiving yards with at least seven touchdowns last season. Claypool had fewer receptions with only 62, but Johnson wasn’t far from Smith-Schuster’s total of 88.
With the relative proximity to one another that we find in the Steelers’ receiver room, I’m not sure that we have a situation where there’s just going to be one dominant player consuming the statistics, as in Antonio Brown’s heyday.
Johnson is the player Ben Roethlisberger liked to throw to most frequently last season, but is he over the drops? Claypool can obviously put up big numbers, as Smith-Schuster has done in the past, but so much of it depends on Ben Roethlisberger and how the offense is run.