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2021 Pre-Training Camp Roster Review: Wide Receiver

The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2021 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, though some have remained largely static.

We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp, this time back 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: 11

Additions: 2

Deletions: 0

Players Retained:

JuJu Smith-Schuster: Nothing’s changed here. JuJu’s back for another year. He wants to play outside more. Whether or not he gets his wish is to be determined, but they need to get him the ball further down the field.

James Washington: Entering a contract year, Washington doesn’t have a clear path toward much playing time with a loaded position group. But he may be the strongest number four in the league.

Diontae Johnson: Diontae Johnson is the only person holding himself back. With his crisp route-running and elusiveness, he can get open and move after the catch, but he’s putting too many balls on the ground.

Chase Claypool: Whether or not his rookie year counts as a ‘breakout’ season, Claypool is already off to a good start, and he should easily be a 1,000-yard guy with the potential to be a regular 10-touchdown contributor.

Ray-Ray McCloud: Can McCloud actually have a bigger offensive role this year? He earned the return man job last year, but joined the team in the middle of training camp. With a full offseason, he could see more offensive opportunities.

Anthony Johnson: Originally a futures signing, Pittsburgh waived Johnson injured in training camp, but eventually signed to the practice squad in-season. He received mixed OTA reviews.

Cody White: Like Johnson, White spent much of the previous season on the practice squad. I haven’t heard anything about him this year.

Tyler Simmons: Signed as a first-year player after working out at Georgia’s Pro Day, the six-foot Simmons was part of a four-player addition to the wide receiver room this spring in lieu of actually drafting one.

Mathew Sexton: Pittsburgh also signed Sexton after he worked out for teams during a Pro Day after going unsigned last year. He does have some collegiate experience returning kicks.

Players Added:

Rico Bussey: An interesting rookie out of Hawaii, Bussey has a number of tools that should help him succeed at this level, but he’ll have a tough road as a college free agent.

Isaiah McKoy: Signed after the draft along with Bussey, McKoy enters a crowded wide receiver room that already retains a pair of practice squad players from last year.

Players Lost: N/A

Notes and Camp Outlook: 

Without any major new additions, this year is about just growing and finding the best roles for everybody, as well as expanding the repertoire. The wide receivers will be asked to be in motion more this year, so they need to recognize the nuances of this technique to best put them in favorable matchups.

Another minor focus will be on physicality, as they will be asked to be more proactive in the run game. Winning at the line of scrimmage is another priority that wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard mentioned.

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