Pro Football Focus has released their rankings of the receiving corps across the NFL, and are not showing a ton of confidence in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass catchers.
PFF tabs the Steelers as the 18th-best receiver group in all of football citing a lack of big play production and drops a season ago.
While he likes each individual piece in the room, PFF’s Steve Palazzolo believes the team failed to maximize each receivers strength under their previous offensive scheme, starting with second-year wideout Chase Claypool.
“Last season, the Steelers struggled to create explosive plays, but they have the pieces in play to improve in that department in 2021,” Palazzolo writes. “Chase Claypool had a strong rookie season with peaks that rival the best downfield threats in the league. He led all rookies with nine receiving touchdowns, and his size and speed should be used more often this season.”
As for Diontae Johnson, it was his drops in 2020 that marred an otherwise strong campaign. Palazzolo expects his hands to improve.
“Diontae Johnson is one of the better route runners in the league, but his 2020 was marred by 14 drops on just 102 catchable passes,” he writes. “Drops tend to be an unstable stat, so expect that number to fall and Johnson to settle in as one of the most effective short and intermediate receivers in the league.”
Now when it comes to JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers were far too limited in how they utilized him from the slot a season ago.
“He averaged a paltry 9.0 yards per reception, far below his career average of 12.0. He remains a solid slot option.”
Palazzolo also wants to see more production from the tight end position, which is expected to improve with the selecting of Pat Freiermuth in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. With regards to Eric Ebron, he needs to secure the ball better as well.
“The Steelers need better production from the tight end position where Eric Ebron graded at just 57.5 overall in large part due to his nine drops on just 72 catchable passes,” he wrote. “They drafted Pat Freiermuth in the second round, and he was perhaps the best all-around tight end in the draft. Freiermuth is a good route runner with after-the-catch ability, so look for him to contribute early in his career.”
Overall, Palazzolo believes the Steelers have weapons, albeit weapons not utilized properly in 2020. That should change somewhat this coming season under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
“The Steelers have a well-rounded group of playmakers, but they just need to better tap into everyone’s strengths while cutting down on the drops this season.”
Receiving corps ranked just ahead of the Steelers include Arizona, Atlanta, Green Bay and the Los Angeles Chargers.