2023 Offseason Questions: What Type Of Slot Receiver Are Steelers Looking For?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: What type of slot receiver are the Steelers looking for?

“We’re obviously going to look at the slot position and identify what the slot means to us”, Steelers general manager Omar Khan told reporters earlier this week. “The slot receiver for everyone is a little different”.

In recent years, the slot receiver has meant a bigger body for the Steelers. That was the role JuJu Smith-Schuster filled for most of his time in Pittsburgh. Chase Claypool occupied that space for the first half of last season before he was traded.

At the moment, the Steelers have no clear and obvious starting slot receiver to sandwich in between Diontae Johnson and George Pickens on the outside, neither of whom ideally profile to shift inside. They have some candidates, including 2022 fourth-round pick Calvin Austin III, a small, shifty sort, and veteran Anthony Miller, who is fairly average in size—and larger than Johnson. There is also Gunner Olszewski, a bit lighter than Miller but roughly as tall.

Will any of them be on the field for 50-plus percent of the snaps? Or whatever ratio the Steelers run out of 11 personnel? Will a veteran free agent signing or perhaps a rookie draft pick become the featured target over the middle?

More fundamentally, will the Steelers’ conception of the slot receiver in this offense be driven primarily by what they want to do, or will it be dictated by what they have? Will they seek out a certain type or simply adapt to whomever they determine is the most valid option?

One can never count out a Steelers team drafting a wide receiver relatively early. Considering they traded a starter in-season last year, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if they feel the desire to replace him with a more pedigreed option. But will that rookie be able to handle all the duties that come with playing over the middle at this level? Would they rather bring in a veteran for that job?

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