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Keep, Keep, Cut: McCloud, White, McKoy

You’re going to build the roster.

If you’re like me you’d love the chance to be a General Manager. We all have our opinions on players throughout the draft process and throughout the season of who we would prefer to have on the team or active roster. I thought this might be a fun process to look at a group of players give some background information on each player and see who you would keep. And yes, I understand you want to see how everyone does in training camp.

I’ll give you three players from each position group and you decide which two you will keep (one to the active roster, one to the practice squad) and one player to cut. At the end of this process we’ll have a 53 man roster and a good portion of the practice squad built by you.

Wide Receivers

A perceived area of strength on the Steelers roster is at the wide receiver position. With the re-signing of Juju Smith Schuster they return the top five wide receivers from 2020. As a group they were pretty impressive with three receivers with over 800 yards and three with at least seven touchdown receptions.

The aforementioned Smith-Schuster returns to man the slot and led the team in receptions with 97. We all know too many of those receptions were of the too short variety but he still managed 831 yards and 9 touchdowns on 128 targets.  He is a security blanket for Ben Roethlisberger with the trust and understanding the two have working together for the past four years

Diontae Johnson had his struggles with drops but if he can get that fixed he is on the verge of being a number one receiver. He led the team in targets (144), was second in receptions (88), let the team in yards (923) and was third in TD receptions with 7 all while missing all or most of three games.

Chase Claypool came in as a second round pick and exceeded expectation especially when it came to scoring. Eleven total touchdowns which included 2 on the ground led the team and he finished third in targets (109), receptions (62) and second in yards (873) while leading the team in yards per reception (14.1).

The old man of the group, James Washington (at 25 years old), saw his numbers take a dip with the emergence of Claypool but set a career high in TD receptions with 5. He totaled 56 targets, 30 receptions and 392 yards finishing second on the team in yards per reception (13.1).

Those are the likely top 4 and barring anything crazy will be on the roster.

The Players

Ray-Ray McCloud – Pittsburgh was his third team in three seasons.  He had some ball security issues in previous seasons. Kevin Colbert signed him just prior to the 2020 season and the hope was he would fill the role of punt and kick returner and provide depth at wide receiver.  The ball security issue peeked in late in the season but overall, the McCloud signing was a win. He finished with 29 punt returns for 208 yards (10.3 average), 28 kick returns for 646 yards (23.1), 20 receptions for 77 yards and 4 rushes for 65 yards.

On the positive side, all those numbers listed above were all career highs.  He solidified the role as a returner and looked close to breaking off a big return a couple times. As a receiver he caught 20 of 22 targets and had zero drops. He did show some explosiveness on a 58 yard run. Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada should be able to find advantageous ways to use him on offense.

Best 2020 Game Week 7 at Tennessee – 3 punt returns for 83 yards, 1 kick return for 17 yards, 2 receptions for 12 yards.

On the negative side, he made it to week 12 with no fumbles and then fumbled in consecutive games losing one against Baltimore. Other than his 58 yard run he gained 7 yards on 3 carries. His route tree was pretty much limited to fly motion push pass and screen and he averaged 3.85 yards per reception. In his last 6 games, he had 12 punt returns for 69 yards for a 5.75 yard average and the two fumbles.

Worst 2020 Game Week 12 vs Baltimore – 1 reception for 8 yards, 3 kick returns for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 6 yards, and 1 lost fumble

Cody White – He was signed to the practice squad in September of 2020. He was an undrafted free agent last season out of Michigan State and originally signed with Kansas City but was cut in the preseason before signing with Pittsburgh. He spent the season on the practice squad and in the initial depth chart is listed as the backup behind Claypool.

On the positive side, he has great size at 6033 and 217 pounds and was a productive receiver in college with 143 receptions, 1.967 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was and early entry into the 2020 draft and is only 22 years old.  He spent the entire year on the practice squad so the team seems to like him and will have the benefit of a full training camp

On the negative side, behind a quality wide receiver corps in Pittsburgh he never saw the active roster.  He is pretty much an unknown to us and looking at his Combine numbers he was just average running a 4.66 40, 35 1/2 inch vertical and 10 foot broad jump.

Isaiah McKoy – Another free agent receiver and he is from the MAC conference where the Steelers like to find players.  He was an early entry into the 2021 draft coming out as a junior and has similar stats to White with 123 catches, 1,750 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also compares similarly to Washington.

On the positive side, he fits the role of Z receiver excelling on the vertical routes and despite his timed speed he was difficult to catch from behind. Solid in contested catch situations and can get on top of defenders. He was effective gaining separation and could have had even better numbers with a more accurate QB in college.

On the negative side, his combine numbers are worse the White’s with 4.68 40, 29.5 vertical and 9’6” on the broad jump. He has only played 4 games since 2019 with the Covid issue changing collegiate seasons in 2020. He had the same number of drops as touchdowns in college. He is raw and needs to improve as a route runner and really only worked outside the hashes in college.

Other WR’s on the roster include Anthony Johnson (practice squad in 2020), Rico Bussey, Mathew Sexton and Tyler Simmons. If you prefer one of those players, please let me know in the comments.

The choice is yours. I will tally up the comments and also do a poll on Twitter to get the results. The results of each position group will be listed below going forward until you have a complete roster.

Previous Selections

53 Man Roster

  • QB – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
  • RB – Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell Jr
  • FB – Derek Watt

Practice Squad

  • QB – Joshua Dobbs
  • RB – Kalen Ballage
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