If you were one who is fairly in tune to the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, this is not going to be shocking news to you. In fact, you probably already knew the answer before clicking on the article only to confirm the answer you knew with certainty. But if you are a younger Pittsburgh Steelers fan, or one who doesn’t look at trends over the year, you may not be aware of how this organization has operated for more than 55 years.
It is an extremely rare occurrence if the Pittsburgh Steelers go two consecutive drafts without adding a wide receiver.
In 2021, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up making nine selections in the NFL draft. In looking at those selections, it was the first time in 10 years where the Steelers did not take a wide receiver in any round of the draft. It was 2011 when the Steelers did not dip into the wide receiver pool throughout the draft as they had just added Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown the previous year.
As for 2021, the Steelers had added a wide receiver in the second or third round in four consecutive drafts and took a reprieve from addressing the position. with JuJu Smith-Schuster (Round 2 of 2017), James Washington (Round 2 of 2018), Diontae Johnson (Round 3 of 2019), and Chase Claypool (Round 2 of 2020), the Steelers were pretty set at the position and were able to fulfill other needs last April.
But history shows us the Steelers don’t often go two consecutive drafts without addressing the wide receiver position. In fact, the last time the Steelers went two consecutive years without selecting a wide receiver was in 2003 and 2004. In those two seasons, the Steelers had just added to wide receivers in 2002 with Antwaan Randle El in the Round 2 and Lee Mays in Round 6.
Going all the way back through the Super Bowl era, the only other time where the Steelers possibly went two years without drafting a wide receiver came in 1985 and 1986. The reason I used the term “possibly” is because the Steelers drafted three tight ends in 1986, one of which was listed as a TE/WR. The only tight end the Steelers selected in the 1986 draft to appear in a game for the Steelers was Warren Seitz, who was also listed as a wide receiver. It’s difficult to judge exactly how Seitz was utilized as he did not have any receptions for the Steelers in his one season and only had three rushers for 2 yards.
Having to dive this far into specifics just shows how much the Steelers continually add to their wide receiver room through the NFL draft. Of course, team need is yet another factor in drafting a wide receiver. With two of the four players listed previously as being recent draft picks of the Steelers now under contract with different teams in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington, the Steelers are in need of infusing some new players. Even if they dip into the free agency well, it’s still highly likely they will be drafting a wide receiver at some point in 2022. Yes, the Steelers did add and kick returner who is also listed as a wide receiver in Gunner Olszewski, but with only nine career receptions it does not appear he is the answer to replace the more than 500 career receptions between JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud.
Another reason the Steelers like to draft wide receivers so often is the fact they rarely give second contracts to players at the position unless they really stand out. With a need to have as many as five receivers on the field at a time, making sure quality players are added in the draft for a low price is generally the way the Steelers keep up their numbers.
While exactly who and in what round the Steelers will address wide receiver in 2022 is yet to be determined, if there was one position I would put money on that the Steelers will definitely draft in April it would be wide receiver. The combination of team need, draft history, and philosophy of the position all come together to make this a position the Steelers are going to take in 2022.
On the other hand, the last time the Steelers went a second-straight draft of not taking a wide receiver they just so happened to draft a franchise quarterback.