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The state of the Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver position

Breaking down every Steelers position group before we hit free agency.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers, and NFL for that matter, have officially hit the offseason. With a month before contracts officially expire, and the new league year begins, the Steelers will need to start game planning their future.

In this series we will look at every position group of the Pittsburgh Steelers and what the team will do with the players that were on the 2021 roster, and how they should rebuild the spots heading into the 2022 season!

Today we turn our attention to the receivers of the Pittsburgh Steelers. 2021 saw a lot of struggle down the stretch, and some production from an unlikely source. But things certainly will be different with this group moving forward.

The 2021 Roster

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

JuJu Smith-Schuster (UFA)
Chase Claypool (2 years $1.8 Million)
Diontae Johnson (1 year $3 Million)
James Washington (UFA)
Ray Ray McCloud (UFA)
Cody White (1 year $825 Thousand)
Anthony Miller (1 year $895 Thousand)

Judging by the list of players above you would have expected a better season out of the Steelers wide receiver position group. Aside from Diontae Johnson earning his first career Pro Bowl achievement things were not great for the Steelers receivers. Heck, even Johnson has his production tail off as the year went on. As we sit here today, receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington are not likely to return to the team. Things could change, but right now this is still a group in an area of transition.

Chase Claypool seemed to take a step back in his sophomore season, and was never a dominant force many hoped him to be. There is still time in his development to take the next step, but for right now he’s just a big receiver who tends to play small. Both the Steelers’ system and quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, could have been issues which held this receiving group back. But Johnson’s drops combined with Claypool‘s unwillingness to use his body certainly did not help things.

The Steelers usage of Ray-Ray McCloud was also head scratching. He made some plays for the team, but considering the talent around the depth chart it had to make you wonder why he was getting the ball thrown to him so much. As for the Steelers other receivers, they really didn’t help the team much at all. For a group with star power it was certainly an underwhelming 2021 season.

Should they look to add a player

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The Steelers will almost certainly have to add receivers to this position group. They will likely need to add a veteran who can lead the depth chart and provide some guidance for the youngsters they will have on the roster in 2022. Las Vegas Raiders receiver Zay Jones is an interesting name who could provide some decent depth as a WR3 or WR4 on the roster. It may be similar to the signing of Donte Moncrief made in 2018, but hopefully this addition would be a receiver who can catch the football.

I also believe the Steelers should use one of their mid-round picks on a pass catcher. With the possible departures of both Smith-Schuster and Washington on the horizon, coupled with Diontae Johnson being on the final year of his contract, the Steelers will need to add some cost effective players to the depth chart. I hesitate to throw any names in the 2022 NFL Draft, but the Steelers could really use a speedster, or someone who just has consistent hands. They need to round out this position group, and adding a veteran and a rookie in the draft is the way to do it, in my opinion.

How should the group look in 2022

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In my opinion, the top of the depth chart is Diontae Johnson, and his reprise role as the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver with Chase Claypool falling in behind as WR2. If the Steelers are unable to sign any of their free agent receivers I would turn my attention to the free-agent market for the third receiver on the depth chart. The fourth spot would land with the rookie draft pick who would hopefully pass Jones by the middle of the season. I would round out the receiving corps between Anthony Miller and Ray-Ray McCloud. Quite possibly both of those names land on the team as well.

But what do you think? What should the Steelers receiving position look like at the start of the 2022 season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Check out the other position previews below: