The Pittsburgh Steelers readily identified the wide receiver position as being one in need of an upgrade this offseason, after losing three of their top five players in free agency. They did not manage to address much prior to the draft, so it was an emphasis early on, as the team used their first selections on days two and three to add wide receivers George Pickens via Round 2 and Calvin Austin III via Round 4.
“Really excited about them. Very different guys, but you need different skillsets in the receiver room”, head coach Mike Tomlin said of his newest weapons for Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Chris Olakodun, their quarterbacks, two of whom were also drafted this weekend.
“We’re excited about getting to know the things that we can anticipate them being good at, but also not having them in a box and being open to being pleasantly surprised by some things that they might bring”, he added. “Pickens is a big guy that has little-guy start-up. We’re excited about that, so we’re not pinning him in a box in that way. Calvin is a little guy who made some plays outside down the field. We’ll put those guys in the mix and coach them up and we’re excited about what they potentially bring us”.
Pickens is a 6’3” wide receiver out of Georgia, Kevin Colbert describing him as “a very, very talented young man”, praising his dedication to return from injury last season for the Bulldogs. Tomlin added that they believe there’s a lot more meat on the bone for him.
“Calvin’s a smaller guy, a stop-start guy, punt return-capable”, the head coach added of their fourth-round Memphis product, of which school he praised their recent production of talent. “They’ve had a lot of dynamic playmakers, and he’s just the latest, and we’re excited to add him. And he brings a different skill set, a guy that probably works inside as a potential jet sweeper and some of those things”.
Both Pickens and Austin add valuable yet varied skillsets to the Steelers’ wide receiver room, joining Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. They signed returner Gunner Olszewski in free agency as well, and recently claimed former third-round pick Miles Boykin off waivers.
In addition to that group of six, Pittsburgh also returns Cody White, Steven Sims, and Anthony Miller, the latter two veterans who spent most of last season on the practice squad. White, an undrafted rookie last year, was called up after JuJu Smith-Schuster was injured, but he figures to be on the bottom of the depth chart at this point along with Tyler Vaughns.
“I think anytime we’re hunting at the receiver position, that’s what we’re looking for”, Tomlin said of the explosive traits that they identified in Pickens and Austin in their desire to add that to the wide receiver room. “It just comes in varying shapes and sizes”.
While Austin is inside-outside capable, he figures to see most of his time in the slot, though with Johnson, Claypool, and Pickens all in the mix, it is unclear how everybody will get on the field. They already have a running back in Najee Harris and a tight end in Pat Freiermuth that they’re not looking to take off the field.