With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are 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).
Topic Statement: The Steelers will return to carrying six wide receivers on their 53-man roster after adding two via the draft.
Explanation: For a number of years consecutively, the Steelers carried six wide receivers on their roster, but they moved away from that in the last couple of years. Despite appearances a month ago, however, they now seem to have depth at the position following the drafting of two receivers in the first four rounds.
It’s inevitable that they will carry six wide receivers, given how the offseason has unfolded. They already carry over two starters from last season in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, and you can add rookies George Pickens and Calvin Austin III as easy locks. Gunner Olszewski is their return man—Austin is not going to win that job as a rookie—so you already have five without even getting into several more veterans.
All of Anthony Miller, Steven Sims, and the recently-claimed Miles Boykin all have proven NFL experience. None of them have previously had the benefit of a full offseason with the Steelers. It is inevitable that at least one of them will stick. There’s a fair chance they may even be able to trade one at final roster cuts, as they’ve done before when they have excess depth (see, for example, Sammie Coates, Jerald Hawkins, Ross Cockrell).
No one position group outside of quarterback—and perhaps not even quarterback—can be spoken of as a fixed number without considering the rest of the roster, and there is reason to believe the Steelers will have excess depth at several position this year.
Carrying nine offensive linemen is a given, for example. They could easily carry seven defensive linemen and/or six inside linebackers, as well. The addition of the flexible Connor Heyward also complicates numbers configuration.
Boykin, Miller, and Sims were all cast aside for a reason. None of them played much at all last year. The reason we were talking so much about Miller and Sims before the draft was because the team didn’t have depth. Now with two draft picks within the first four rounds, they have that.
Chances are high that they can retain at least one of the three on the practice squad, and that will be good enough. Boykin in particular will have an elevated contract, so he’s pretty unlikely to be claimed off waivers a second time, and he’ll probably want to stay where he worked all offseason for the best chance of contributing in 2022.