By Jeremy Hritz
2022 will be a unique year, as for the first time in 18 years, the Steelers will take the field without Ben Roethlisberger as their starting quarterback. Battling for the right to be the starter are Mitchell Trubisky, who by all accounts has the advantage, while rookie Kenny Pickett will be waiting in the wings for when he is called upon (And, yes, I intentionally left Mason Rudolph out because I believe he will be traded). While we are anticipating the emergence of a new quarterback, what about the targets these players will be throwing? Today, I take a look at the 2022 Steelers Depth Chart at wide receiver.
|Calvin Austin III||19||WR||5-9||162||23||R||Memphis|
|Miles Boykin||13||WR||6-4||220||25||4||Notre Dame|
|Chase Claypool||11||WR||6-4||238||23||3||Notre Dame|
|Gunner Olszewski||89||WR||6-0||190||25||4||Bemidji State|
|Tyler Snead||84||WR||5-7||174||22||R||East Carolina|
|Cody White||15||WR||6-3||215||23||3||Michigan State|
There are currently 11 wide receivers on the 90 man roster, but rest assured, not all of them will remain come #1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. At the top of the roster, Dionate Johnson and Chase Claypool will serve the team as the #1 and #2 wide receivers, both offering differing and unique skillsets: Johnson with his shiftiness and acceleration, Claypool with his size, and at times, ability to make the combat catch down the field when focused. Both are not without their concerns, as Johnson still struggles with drops, though improved, while Claypool is emotional and undisciplined at times, causing unnecessary penalties for his team. The Steelers will need both of these individuals to grow and develop into leaders, as they are now the vets with the departure of Juju Smith-Schuster.
George Pickens and Calvin Austin will be given every opportunity to show that they can serve in the 3rd and 4th wideout spots, both possessing elite speed, with Pickens more of the deep threat, while Austin is more of a joystick, shake-and-bake multipurpose receiver. If there is anything we know for certain about the Steelers scouting department is that they know how to find wide receivers, and they are hopeful about what both Pickens and Austin can contribute. However, rookie receivers typically struggle to pick up the playbook, so it will be interesting to monitor their development during training camp.
Gunnar Olzewski appears to be the favorite for the 5th wide receiver spot, especially with the value he brings to special teams as a return man. In terms of being a productive wide receiver, he has yet to show it his first three years, only catching 9 passes for 127 yards and 1 touchdown (14.1 yards per reception). Maybe he wasn’t given plentiful opportunities which could explain his paltry numbers, and there is hope that he can utilize his speed not only as a returner, but also a receiver as well.
Beyond the Top 5
Outside of the aforementioned five receivers, there are 6 players battling more than likely for the practice squad, and maybe an outside chance at 6th WR if the Steelers choose to keep as many.
Miles Boykin is an intriguing player coming over from Baltimore, as he was scouted by the Steelers the year he was drafted for his admirable combination of size and speed. His lack of production in Baltimore ultimately resulted in his departure. Anthony Miller and Cody White played sparingly in 2021 (White played more), and were unspectacular in their appearances. There may be more upside for Miller as he didn’t get a full season to show what he can do. Steven Sims is an intriguing player who came over last season from the Washington Commanders, with speed and return ability; however, he will have to show prowess in both to have a shot. Tyler Vaughns will be a camp body, while I am intrigued by Tyler Snead from East Carolina and whether or not his Rudy-sized heart and relentless can convert into performance at the NFL level.
The Need for Speed Has Been Filled
The Steelers were wise in addressing the need for speed this offseason with the addition of Pickens and Austin. Now, the team just needs these guys to show they can contribute in year #1. If they can, this will be a formidable unit in the 2022 season.