2022 NFL Draft
Kevin Colbert Evaluates Wide Receiver Market
PITTSBURGH — As wide receiver contracts skyrocket across the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert says that paying a player a significant cap amount still amounts to whether or not they are special and less on the position he plays.
“I think that’s irrelevant to the position,” said Colbert. “We’ve always talked about, our top three picks they have to become starters in the business model that we follow. Because you have to have so many players that fit in those categories. When you miss on a player in those rounds, which we have, you end up spending more money trying to replace them in free agency …
“We’re always cognizant on what goes on in free agency and its’ impact on the salary cap. Hopefully you have some players that are worthy of that type of consideration, but that comes back to what we’re trying to do on Thursday and that’s make the best picks possible.”
Across the NFL, teams have handed out hefty contracts to wide receivers. Christian Kirk, a wide receiver who has put up modest numbers throughout his young career thus far, was handed a four-year $78 million dollar deal by the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. Tyreek Hill was handed a record-breaking deal after he was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins and many wide receivers nearing the end of their rookie deals, such as the Washington Commanders’ Terry McLaurin, are reportedly demanding new deals as well.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are known to build their receiving core through the draft and very rarely give their wide receivers a second contract. Antonio Brown is the only wide receiver of recent history to receive a significant second deal, but Brown was also putting up Hall-of-Fame worthy numbers at the time.
Players such as Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are all notable wide receivers that have put up decent numbers while in Pittsburgh after being drafted by the team. Wallace, Sanders and Washington all left the team without receiving a second contract while Smith-Schuster’s second contract was only for one season. Johnson and Claypool are still on the team and under their rookie deals, but Johnson is looking for an extension.
Colbert was later asked if the increasing depth of rookie wide receivers in draft class also plays a part in considering whether or not to sign a wide receiver to a significant extension. He repeated his position that paying a player has nothing to do with his position, but on whether or not the player himself is special.
“I think again that depth is undefined until they get to this level,” said Colbert. “Any player at any position that we have a desire to pay, we feel he has to be special at his position. And maybe exceeding where he was drafted. Just maybe recognizing what he has accomplished at this level. I think we can do that at any given position for that special player within that group.”