The other day during one of our BTSC podcasts (you can listen to our podcasts in the player below this article) a listener asked me a very simple question with a not-so-simple answer.
Who will be the team’s No. 2 wide receiver in 2019?
Every Pittsburgh Steelers fan around the globe knows JuJu Smith-Schuster will be the team’s No. 1 receiver entering his 3rd NFL season, but who will be the man riding shotgun? You know, the No. 2 receiver?
Let’s look at the candidates, as of now:
We all assume there will be at least one wide receiver addition via the 2019 NFL Draft, but just focusing on the players already on the roster makes you wonder who will be the true No. 2 heading into 2019?
Assuming Rogers and Switzer will be delegated to special teams and slot responsibilities, it makes this a two horse race between Washington and Moncrief. Washington continues to be an unknown commodity after a rough rookie season, but the same could be said about Moncrief who has struggled the last three seasons with mediocre-to-bad quarterbacks throwing him passes.
It is easy to sit here and suggest the Steelers will draft a wide receiver who is Day 1 ready, but as you know there are no guarantees when it comes to the NFL Draft. When the Steelers selected Smith-Schuster in the second round, no one expected much, then he almost amassed 1,000 yards as a 20 year old. When the Steelers selected Washington in the second round, everyone expected another JuJu-like performance, but was treated to an up-and-down season with very little contributions to the team.
In other words, you can’t account for a rookie to jump into the No. 2 wide receiver role, even though it has happened before.
When looking at both Moncrief and Washington, you don’t really have to choose one or the other. Sure, this will be a very good camp battle to watch, but the Steelers might just be able to have Moncrief, Washington and Smith-Schuster on the field at the same time regularly.
Hear me out...
If you look at the statistics, Smith-Schuster does some of his best work from the slot.
JuJu Smith-Schuster racked up the targets from the slot last season – expect him to see a high volume of targets come 2019 pic.twitter.com/NrKifG1VW9— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 27, 2019
Sure, it sounds weird to have your top wide receiver running from the slot, but putting Smith-Schuster, who is ridiculously versatile, in the slot will maximize mismatches. Put a safety on Smith-Schuster, he will win. Smith-Schuster will even win against most slot cornerbacks in the league. So, if you put Smith-Schsuter in the slot, it will allow Moncrief and Washington to do damage on the outside.
This isn’t to suggest the Steelers won’t ever have Smith-Schuster on the outside, he will certainly play there when the team only deploys 1 or 2 wide receivers, but when they have multiple wide receivers on the field the team certainly has options.
In this situation, there really is no clear-cut answer to the question of who the Steelers’ No. 2 wide receiver will be in 2019. It could be a multitude of players used in that role, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maximizing matchups is something every NFL team does with regularity, and if the black-and-gold can get some solid contributions from receivers not named Smith-Schuster, their depth chart, and passing attack, will be just fine.