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Arthur Smith Addresses Concerns About WR Depth

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Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith

On paper, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a bottom-tier wide receiver corps in the NFL. Other than George Pickens, there’s a lot of uncertainties. The unit is a far cry from the Killer B’s era.

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith doesn’t appear concerned about the wide receiver depth, however. He thinks players are going to step up and rise to the occasion. It happens in the NFL every year. He even hinted at how Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacau, who was a fifth-round pick, won Offensive Rookie of the Year last year.

“Every year changes. If you’re talking historical, if you’re just playing static and not moving and you were spread out and you had wide receiver one, wide receiver two, wide receiver three, things change year to year,” Smith said in an interview with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com. “You see it every year in this league. Guys that may be a fifth-round pick end up being the rookie of the year. Guys get another opportunity, they step up. It’s constantly changing. And then, unfortunately, guys get injured, you have to have depth. You’re working all those contingency plans all up and down the offense.”

Pittsburgh Steelers Arthur Smith

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith during OTAs on May 21, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Van Jefferson, Quez Watkins, Calvin Austin III, Roman Wilson and Scotty Miller are competing for the next four spots on the depth chart, at both outside receiver and in the slot. Jefferson is the leading candidate to win the No. 2 wide receiver position, but Wilson is also a player to watch for. He’s a rookie that many are bullish on.

Chris Simms of NBC Sports thinks Wilson could have a breakout rookie year that resembles what Nacua did in 2023.

“Two guys I think jump to me here, one would be Roman Wilson of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and him being able to play right away is a big part of this. And the other one is Jermaine Burton of the Cincinnati Bengals,” Simms said on his Unbuttoned podcast in May.

Nacua set records for the most receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,486) ever by a rookie last season. Those kind of numbers are lofty expectations for Wilson, but he’s up for the challenge. He believes he can be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. For now, the Steelers will need him to be just a No. 2 WR and take pressure off Pickens.

“People say that I can’t be a number one receiver, and I feel like I definitely can be that guy. I feel like I’ve shown it, I’ve shown flashes of it, but with enough production, I feel like I can easily be that guy,” Wilson said on a podcast with former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. in April.

Under Arthur Smith last season, Atlanta ran just 18 percent of their snaps out of 11 personnel, opting for more 12, 13, and 22 personnel. The 11 personal usage was the lowest in the league.

Smith just doesn’t utilize three wide receiver sets very often in his offense. Perhaps that’s why he’s not concerned about the depth. Or he might just see true potential in Wilson or one of the many receivers vying for the No. 2 position.