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? How will they tackle the NFL Draft? 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: Will the Steelers draft yet another day-two wide receiver?
Addiction can come in many forms but can frequently be identified by an oft-repeated pattern. By such a simplistic definition, one might think the Pittsburgh Steelers are addicted to selecting wide receivers on the second day of the draft. After all, they do it nearly every year.
It was George Pickens last year after a one-year respite from the affliction—during which time the Steelers drafted their first tight end within the first four rounds since 2007. In 2020, it was Chase Claypool, preceded by Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. In 2015, it was Sammie Coates, then Dri Archer (and Martavis Bryant in the fourth round), with Markus Wheaton before him. And two years earlier, Emmanuel Sanders, preceded by Mike Wallace, preceded by Limas Sweed.
Being charitable with the Archer designation (he was listed as a WR/RB), the Steelers under Mike Tomlin have drafted a second- or third-round wide receiver in 11 of his 16 draft classes, the only exceptions being 2007, 2011, 2012, 2016, and 2021. Just based on the sheer weight of history, one would have to imagine the odds are reasonably good of it happening again.
Add on top of that the fact that the Steelers traded their No. 3 receiver midseason last year and the man most likely to replace him, Calvin Austin III, is an undersized midround pick whose primary asset—speed—is subject to the whims of a healing foot, on which he had surgery. Did I mention he’s never been inside an NFL stadium as a player yet?
With a few weeks left to go until the draft, the Steelers haven’t addressed the wide receiver position at all. They even lost Steven Sims in free agency, who was their primary return man but also assumed most of the slot snaps after Claypool was traded.
Or do we think that Anthony Miller is suddenly the answer after years of irrelevance? Clearly, one way or another, a wide receiver with slot capability is going to be added to this roster. It could still come via a free agent. But the odds are good it will come in the draft as well. And if it does, the smart money is on day two.