In my previous article, I made the case for not drafting an inside linebacker early in the 2019 draft. For many fans, they see the Pittsburgh Steelers as having a glaring need at wide receiver. I get it; the team parted ways with one of the best wide outs in the NFL, but that does not mean the team needs to jump into the waters and snare a replacement in the first or second round.
Pittsburgh would have to have a massive hole at wide receiver for the team to use huge draft capital in the first or second round. This is not the case.
As things stand, the team has five wide outs who will make the opening day roster of 53.
Something crazy and very serious would have to happen in the next four months for JuJu Smith-Schuster not to be the team’s No. 1 wide out.
The competition that will arise in the offseason for the No. 2 wide receiver spot will have Steelers fans fixated. Free agent acquisition, Donte Moncrief was brought in on a two-year $9 million deal to play. What will his role be? Fans may not know that answer until late August. He showed in 2015 with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm what he can produce. In the seven games Luck was in, Moncrief amassed 32 receptions for 351 yards. Over a 16 game span, he would have averaged 802 yards on 73 receptions. Moncrief put up pedestrian production with two poor quarterbacks in Jacksonville last season. (48-668-3) Could he replicate or surpass the total in an offense that passes the ball as much as the Steelers do?
James Washington, the Steelers 2019 second-round draft choice had a horrid year. In 14 games in 2018, he amassed a mere 16 catches while taking part in 47 percent of the offensive snaps. Was his 42 percent reception rate because of not having continuity with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was he unable to acclimate to the transition from college to the pros or did Pittsburgh flat out blunder the draft pick? Moncrief is not making so much money this season that Pittsburgh will not give Washington every opportunity to win the #2 wideout spot or at least see plenty of playing time. It is hard to imagine that Pittsburgh would give up on Washington after just one season and bury him deep on the depth chart.
Eli Rogers will not be a wide receiver who stuffs the stat sheet on Sundays. He is a security blanket for Roethlisberger. Can he be replaced? Absolutely he can. With Smith-Schuster being used out of the slot and the position historically not seeing large sums of targets and production, would it make sense to draft his replacement in the first couple of rounds?
While Rogers was battling back from his torn ACL, Ryan Switzer filled in. Switzer chipped in for 36 receptions for 253 yards on 302 snaps. Just like Rogers, Switzer is not flashy. Some fans grumble about his special team’s production. Just like his receiving ability, his return ability will not get him to the Pro Bowl. That being said, he was twelfth in the NFL in kick return average (20.2 yards) and thirteenth in punt return average (8.4 yards.). Looking through the college stats of the wideouts projected in the first two rounds, there does not appear to be any with vast kick and punt return experience.
Washington’s rookie season and his poor performance can’t be glossed over but his college pedigree can’t be ignored either. Moncrief when healthy and playing with great quarterback play, has shown potential for large numbers. Neither one of these players should be stymied due to bringing in a first or second-round pick that could hinder their potential. Rogers has shown chemistry with Big Ben in big games which were seen in the Week 17 Cincinnati Bengals game last season and the Jacksonville Jaguars playoff game the season before. Switzer is a tick above being an average punt and kickoff returner and adds depth at the slot position.
Simply put, where is the glaring need at wide out this season to use high draft capital on?