The Pittsburgh Steelers are due to deal receiver Antonio Brown seemingly any day now, and when Brown is officially out of Pittsburgh, a huge hole will be left for whoever replaces him in terms of production on the field.
The top of the Steelers pass-catching depth chart features JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer and James Washington, all at different stages of their career. Smith-Schuster is well on his way to NFL stardom, Switzer looks to settle his feet in as a young slot receiver, and Washington will need to find some sort of progress after what many consider a disappointing rookie season.
Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey may find themselves in new uniforms for 2019, as both are set to hit the open market.
The Steelers have $27.4 million sunk into the wide receiver position, per Spotrac.com. Antonio Brown’s $22.1 million accounts for most of that figure currently, while Smith-Schuster and Washington are the only other rostered receivers to see an annual salary of +$1,000,000.
While Pittsburgh may focus their efforts in the draft to find another young receiver for the depth chart, a veteran presence in the receivers room would pay dividends for the development of a depth chart that has an average age of under 25.
What are some possible fits for the Steelers in free agency? While this class of receivers doesn’t possess true star-power that can match what the Steelers are losing, valuable pass-catches are still within range of Pittsburgh’s grasp.
Golden Tate is likely the best receiver currently on the open market, but may also cost the most on an annual basis. Tate made $6.2 million in 2018, but will hope to see that figure rise when looking for his next team. Tate saw great numbers as a member of the Detroit Lions, but suffered from a lack of involvement after being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tate, should he find his way to the Steel City, would assume Brown’s role as a number one receiver and make defenses respect him enough to not double Smith-Schuster. Tate has displayed speed to get behind cornerbacks on deep routes, while also being able to make catches in the middle of the field or tip-toe on the sideline. Tate’s game is solid all-around, and would pair well with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner’s creative play-calling.
Donte Moncrief made $9.6 million in 2018, and will likely see another contract similar to that number, if not a tad lower. Moncrief’s numbers don’t jump off the page with his one year stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars (48 rec, 668 yards, 3 TD) thanks to lack of QB play+run first mentality, but the 26-year-old offers a lot of upside as a speedy route-runner that has showcased his ability to hit the big play any given touch.
While Moncrief may not come in and draw attention away from JuJu, he will provide a respectable option on the opposite side of the field. Moncrief is not a huge name that will get fans excited, but the tools he possesses makes him one of the better free agent wide receivers available.
Tyrell Williams only made $2.9 million in 2018, but is expected to see a huge pay increase when free agency opens. Williams, who caught 41 balls for 653 yards and 5 scores (tied for first among free agent WR’s) will likely the draw one of the larger crowds of teams interested in his services.
His 6’4″ frame would provide the Steelers with another big-bodied receiving option, and his knack for coming down with ridiculous balls downfield would be a welcome sign for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Williams is a straight-up playmaker on the field with athleticism to match his big frame. Williams would find a lot of success in black and gold, but it’s up to the Steelers if they want to fork over some cash to make it happen.
If Tyrell Williams is option A, Chris Conley is option B. Conley’s big frame closely matches that of Williams, and the touchdown production mirrored each other in 2018. Yet Conley was buried on what was an extremely talented Chiefs roster, not shining quite like Williams did in LA.
Yet Conley still embodies a solidified red-zone target, and would provide a nice complement to Smith-Schuster should the 26-year-old continue to improve his game. He is not as polished as Williams when it comes to route-running and does not have highlight reel catches, yet Conley could make positive contributions to the Steelers if given the opportunity.
Other Free Agent WR’s
These guys, for one reason or another, didn’t make the list of potential Steelers targets. Whether it be an expensive price tag, not fitting in the scheme or just flat-out might not wanting to come to Pittsburgh, these guys are unlikely to see themselves in black and gold.
However, the NFL is a funny business more times than not, and not everything can officially be ruled out. These guys may still find their way to Pittsburgh, even if it’s just for a visit.
- Demaryius Thomas
- Randall Cobb
- Tavon Austin
- Ryan Grant
- Kevin White
- Devin Funchess
In today’s modern-day passing league, the importance of quality receivers continues to become a staple in most offenses. If Roethlisberger plans on throwing another 5,000 yards next season, the Steelers may very well find another piece to that puzzle in free agency.
Report: Steelers to Hold Training Camp at Team Facility, Not at Saint Vincent College
It looks like the Steelers will be staying home for training camp this August.
According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday, the league has informed teams that they must hold training camp at their facilities later this summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And so the NFL has told all its teams that they must stay at their team facilities for this summer's training camps.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 2, 2020
The Steelers will now be conducting training camp on the South Side, instead of their traditional summer home of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, snapping a 54-year streak.
The league still plans for training camp to begin on time, but has made no announcement on changes to the season or whether games will have fans.
Steelers Honor 2020 Graduates at Heinz Field
The Pittsburgh Steelers are showing love to the 2020 graduates that had their senior years cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team honored this year’s graduating class by displaying a congratulatory message on the scoreboard at Heinz Field Friday night.
You worked hard.— Heinz Field (@heinzfield) May 30, 2020
You did your best.
You gave it your all.
You earned this.
Congratulations to the class of 2020! pic.twitter.com/bzykmUF6u7
A few current and former Steelers players also voiced their support on social media, including running back James Conner, defensive end Cam Heyward and retired defensive end Brett Keisel.
“Keep focused, keep chasing your dreams,” Conner said. “I know 2020’s been a wild year, but just stay focused, stay locked in. I know you guys are all going to go and accomplish great things.”
Congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2020!— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 29, 2020
Tonight at 8:20 pm, we honor you by displaying a special congratulatory message on the videoboard at @HeinzField!@JamesConner_ | @CamHeyward | @bkeisel99 pic.twitter.com/HaG5SVofNi
Students across the Pittsburgh area have been forced to finish the school year from home, and have unfortunately had to miss out on some of life’s biggest milestones, such as prom and graduation day.
It’s great to see the Steelers doing their part to make students feel celebrated and recognized.
Cam Heyward Discusses Philanthropic Work, Father’s Legacy and Mike Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward joined The V Foundation’s “Voices for Victory” podcast to discuss growing up with an NFL father, the inspiration of his philanthropic efforts and playing for head coach Mike Tomlin.
His father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, played eleven seasons in the NFL as a running back and fullback, rushing for 4,301 yards and 30 touchdowns and was recently inducted into the Pitt Hall of Fame.
The elder Heyward’s career was unfortunately cut short in 1998 when he was diagnosed with cancer, the disease that would tragically take his life eight years later.
Cam discussed what it was like growing up with an NFL player for a dad, and some of his fondest memories of his father growing up.
“I always get to hear about the stories, and about the interactions he has with people at Children’s Hospital, or just everyday people,” Heyward said. “He did a great job of always having moments with people. And always making people remember those times.”
Cam went on to say that in addition to being inspired by former Steelers teammates to give, it was the experience he shared with his father battling cancer that truly moved him to become a hero in the community.
“I always knew I wanted to give back to kids, and also to cancer research just because I was a kid, and I was always in the hospital as a kid,” he said. “I had great doctors and nurses that helped me along the way. And cancer research just because my dad has been affected by that, and on a regular day, my dad would visit other patients and just interact with them.”
The nine-year veteran also offered words of advice to kids that may have a parent battling cancer just like he did.
“I just tell people rely on your support system, and make sure you listen, because from an exterior point of view, they’re going to have a lot more to say and see why you’re going through.”
Cam also spoke about what it is like playing for Mike Tomlin, and the qualities that he believes make him a great leader.
“In adverse situations, he’s very steady. I don’t think he, he’s not looking to throw the whole playbook out and completely change the way we play,” he said. “As a leader, you have to be able to set a precedent and make sure the guys can rally around you.
“And I think the other thing he does is he’s consistent with that. From the beginning of offseason to the end of the season, he has preached the same message. And I think that resonates with a lot of older guys and younger guys, because that consistency can be brought through anywhere in our organization, in our staff, through each player. They know what’s expected of them, he challenges us and he’s honest with us as well.”
Selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Heyward is entering his tenth season in Pittsburgh. His 79 tackles-for-loss are the fourth-most in franchise history.
Heyward has made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons, and has been named First-Team All-Pro twice over his career, including in 2019.
Founded in 1993 by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano, the V Foundation has awarded more than $250 million in grants and has “become one of the premier supporters of cutting-edge cancer research.”
Listen to the V Foundation’s entire interview with Cam Heyward here.