The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
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: Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud will play a significant role in replacing JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot.
Explanation: With their top slot receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, gone for the rest of the season due to injury, the next man up, on paper, is James Washington, but Ray-Ray McCloud has been their number two slot presence, logging 72 of his 89 snaps on the season there so far.
Remember back in the offseason when Smith-Schuster kept talking about his desire and expectation to see more time on the outside this year? Remember when he was asked who else on the team could line up in the slot? He said that McCloud was their best slot receiver on the team behind himself.
McCloud has already replaced him in the slot twice this season. He logged 26 snaps there on Sunday after Smith-Schuster suffered his shoulder injury. But he also missed time back in week three. McCloud logged 47 offensive snaps, 42 in the slot.
Why? Because he has the short-space elusiveness that works in that role. That’s what makes him a good return man. That’s what makes him effective over the middle. He’s likely to have the biggest offensive role he’s ever had in his career.
Who was out this Sunday, which resulted in McCloud being the next man up? James Washington. Who was out in week three? Diontae Johnson. If the Steelers had three of their top four receivers healthy in either of those games, McCloud probably plays very little, and that will also be the case this year.
If anybody’s going to come in and take on a role, it will be Anthony Miller, the former second-round pick whom they’ve just signed to the practice squad. He is already an established NFL slot receiver. Once he gets himself acclimated to the system, after the bye, you can probably expect him to find his way to the 53-man roster over Cody White.