The Pittsburgh Steelers double dipped at WR last year in the draft, selecting George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in attempt to add youth and playmaking to a WR corps desperate for more splash plays. Pickens came through wonderfully as a rookie but Austin’s rookie season was lost before it began due to a foot injury suffered in training camp.
While the team expects Austin to join Pickens and Diontae Johnson in the lineup in 2023, having lost WR Chase Claypool via an in-season trade and Steven Sims in free agency, Pittsburgh would be wise to add another playmaker to the room in the draft that can play the slot. That would at least provide insurance should Austin not be ready for a full-time role in essentially his first season.
One interesting prospect that could fit the bill for the Steelers is Ole Miss WR Jonathan Mingo. He has the frame and size of a big, outside receiver but played a fair amount in the slot during his college career.
At the NFL Combine, I asked Mingo about his versatility as a WR and his ability to win on the outside thanks to his impressive size and athletic profile (6’2, 220 lbs) but also lining up in the slot and winning over the middle of the field as a possession receiver.
“I think based on my position, if you say you are a receiver, you got to be able to play everything,” Mingo responded. “You shouldn’t just identify yourself as a slot guy or an outside guy. So, I think that’s what helps me stick out is that I’m willing and able to play inside and outside… wherever the offense needs me.”
Ross McCorkle completed Mingo’s draft profile for the site a while back, highlighting Mingo’s versatility. He has played outside, in the slot, and even as a flanker aligned in tight. McCorkle even went so far to say in his evaluation that some of Mingo’s best plays came when he was playing in the slot, using his size, speed, and sure hands to bully smaller DBs as he works in space and identifies soft spots in zone coverage.
I then asked Mingo what he believes is his defining trait, one that separates him from the rest of the receivers in this class. Mingo responded that whatever team drafts him is going to get one bad dude.
“I feel like I just can’t be stopped,” Mingo answered. “Once I get the ball in my hands, I feel like nobody can bring me down. I feel like I have great run after the catch because I got a lot of tools in my bag.”
Mingo can indeed be a threat with the ball in his hands after the catch as evidenced by his nine-catch, 247-yard performance against Vanderbilt this past season. He has the size and strength to run through wimpy arm tackles and also the speed and burst (4.46 40, 39.5” vert, 10’9” broad) to challenge defenses after the catch. He compared his game to fellow former Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown, who also starred as a slot receiver in college before moving on to the NFL where he has become one of the best WRs in the game today.
I concluded my interview with Mingo asking if he had been in contact with the Steelers at the Combine after meeting with them at the Senior Bowl. He mentioned that while he didn’t have a formal meeting with Pittsburgh, he did speak to WR Coach Frisman Jackson in Indianapolis.
“I haven’t met with the team yet, but I did get to talk to the receiver’s coach yesterday and a couple days ago too,” he said. “I met with them at the Senior Bowl though and it was cool to meet and chop it up with them.”
The Steelers need a slot receiver, preferably a bigger, stronger one to complement Austin’s speed and explosiveness. Mingo fits that to a tee, getting compared by McCorkle to Pittsburgh’s former big slot WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Mingo has the right mental makeup to continue to improve at the next level as well as the willingness to play anywhere on the field. He is inside-outside versatile like JuJu was. He is also an accomplished blocker, making him an ideal big slot that can help in the run game, create bigger plays after the catch, and give Pittsburgh another big-bodied presence over the middle of the field that can make possession-down catches.
Given that the Steelers brought in Mingo for a pre-draft visit, they are likely doing their homework on the mid-round prospect. He could squarely be in the conversation in the third or fourth round of the draft.