The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2022 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then. The changes apply to almost every position on the roster. Some are major changes and some minor, though some have remained largely static.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp. This year, it’s back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. 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
Diontae Johnson: A Pro Bowler last season, Diontae Johnson is in a contract year, and that’s put a lot of scrutiny on him. Among the top route runners in the game, he is hoping to be unleashed in Matt Canada’s offense this year.
Chase Claypool: Entering his third season, Chase Claypool recently declared himself one of the best receivers in the game, though he knows he still has to show it. Frankly, I like the self-confidence because it doesn’t diminish the work. It’s the drive toward self-fulfillment.
Cody White: A second-year player who is the son of now one of the Steelers’ front office executives, White is only one of three wide receivers returning from last season’s roster, but he has his work cut out for him to maintain that position.
Gunner Olszewski: Signed as a free agent, Olszewski was brought in primarily as a return man, but is confident that he will have a role as a wide receiver as well. Provided that he makes the team, he will obviously dress, so the opportunity is there.
Anthony Miller: A former second-round draft pick, Miller is looking to restart his career after a year of upheaval involving a training camp trade and a short stay in Houston. And he has his former quarterback along for the ride.
Steven Sims: Like Miller, Sims spent the season on the practice squad but has veteran experience in the league. He looks to be outside the bubble, but a full training camp and preseason will provide the competition to allow the contenders to rise to the top.
Tyler Vaughns: One of several players who spent time on the practice squad last season, Vaughns still remains on the 90-man roster, but realistically is probably looking at a practice squad spot as his best-case scenario right now.
Miles Boykin: While this technically happened before the draft, it happened after our previous positional update, so the addition of Boykin gets included here. A former day-two draft pick, Boykin is a three-year veteran with good size who has more potential than he got to show in Baltimore.
George Pickens: The Steelers’ second-round pick, Pickens is a first-round talent with good size and workable speed who should now be fully healthy after a torn ACL. He can really be unleashed this year if all goes well.
Calvin Austin III: The second wide receiver drafted this year, Austin comes via the fourth round out of Memphis. A short and shifty weapon, his success will hinge upon how Matt Canada uses him. The Steelers believe he has the speed to win outside in spite of his size, but he’s working inside primarily.
Tyler Snead: A rookie undrafted free agent out of East Carolina, he’s another short and shifty guy added as the Steelers look for slot options.
Rico Bussey: A 2021 college free agent, Bussey was waived in order to make room for Snead, who was signed to the 90-man roster following rookie minicamp as a tryout.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
Even though there was a lot of change in the position group since last year, there are reasons for optimism. Johnson and Claypool are their baseline value with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud all gone, but they have an interesting mix of young players and complementary veterans whose roles need to be sorted out.
Pickens and Austin should be safe bets to make the team, but how much and how early they play will have to be figured out over the span of August and into September, perhaps beyond. There is room for at least one veteran such as Miller or Boykin to make a push not just for a roster spot, but for playing time. Maybe even as the number three receiver to start the season.