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Van Jefferson Has Size and Experience to Start at Outside WR But Still Needs to Win the Job

After spending a season under Arthur Smith in Atlanta, Scotty Miller followed him to the Steelers in hopes of sticking on the roster.

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Van Jefferson

The Pittsburgh Steelers remodeled their wide receiver room this offseason and one of the players brought in was Van Jefferson. While he worked with Arthur Smith for a portion of last season, Jefferson also brings Super Bowl winning experience to the room. Jefferson was traded to the Atlanta Falcons after five games last season and now with a full offseason with Smith, Jefferson is ready to go in 2024.

“I got traded in the middle of the season so I wasn’t that perfect with the offense,” Jefferson told reporters at the team’s OTAs. “Now I [had] a full offseason to learn his offense so it has been helpful.”

Jefferson played for the Los Angeles Rams when they won Super Bowl LVI. This also happened to be the best statistical season of Jefferson’s career. In 2021, Jefferson caught a career-high 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns.

While the team remodeled the room, it is still rough around the edges as the team still searches for a true outside receiver to line up on the opposite side of George Pickens. Standing at 6-foot-1, Jefferson fits the frame of an outside receiver but his production over the last two seasons are not that of a number-two receiving option.

Despite his numbers since his breakout 2021 season, Jefferson is still confident that he could step up into the second receiver role.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Jefferson said. “I think I could do those things, but like I said, at the end of the day I got to put in the work to get the opportunity to earn that. Nothing is given, nothing is going to be handed to me. I have to work for that spot and I am comfortable in doing that.”

While he prepares to battle in camp for the starting job, Jefferson is still taking time to mentor the younger receivers, Pickens in particular. He expressed that with Pickens’ mentors from last season no longer around, he is happily going to step into that role.

“George has a lot of talent. He’s an unbelievable receiver,” Jefferson said. “Watching him from afar, especially when I was at Florida playing against him. He’s just an unbelievable talent. So he has all the talent to be the great receiver that we know he can be. I know he had some vets here in Allen Robinson and Diontae Johnson to kind of raise him. I’m just going to try to do my part to make sure he reaches his full potential because I know he can. He can be a 1,500-yard guy, an 1,800 yard guy.”

Jefferson stated that under new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, the new group of receivers is bonding well and despite their competition against each other for roster spots, the group is able to have fun with each other everyday.

“I think the whole group is just coming around each other and bonding together, especially with Zach Azzanni,” Jefferson said. “We’re just taking pride in working out together and coming out here competing. We all know what we’re fighting for, we all know that we’re competing against one another. But at the end of the day, it’s all about coming out here and having fun. Putting your best foot forward to earn the trust of the quarterbacks and the trust of the coaches, and obviously see that on the field.”

In the upcoming preseason, Jefferson will have to compete with guys like Quez Watkins, Marquez Callaway, and third-round pick Roman Wilson for snaps in the regular season. Even if he does not win the role outright, Jefferson should still find himself as a big piece of the receiving game in 2024.

11 • Van Jefferson, Wide Receiver, Florida
6-foot-1, 200 pounds, 27 years old, 5th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Van Jefferson to a one-year contract on March 15, 2024. Jefferson was an unrestricted free agent due to his rookie contract expiring.

Last Season: Van Jefferson started his fourth NFL season in Los Angeles but was traded to the Atlanta Falcons after just five games. Between the two teams, Jefferson finished the 2023 season with just 20 catches and zero touchdowns. It was his worst statistical season since he entered the league.

Jefferson caught eight passes for 108 yards with the Rams and 12 passes for 101 yards with the Falcons in 2023.

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Van Jefferson

Van Jefferson from the Washington Football Team vs. Los Angeles Rams at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. October 11, 2020 (All-Pro Reels Photography)

CareerThe Los Angeles Rams drafted Van Jefferson with the 57th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Following a decent rookie season, Jefferson had a career-year in 2021. Besides winning the Super Bowl, Jefferson started every game for the Rams and posted a career-high 50 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns.

Jefferson’s production was cut in half the following season as he played in just 11 games. He had 24 receptions for 369 yards and three touchdowns.

Over the first four seasons of his career, Jefferson has caught 113 passes for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Year Team GP GS Receptions Rec Yards Rec Tds
2020 LAR 16 0 19 220 1
2021 LAR 17 17 50 802 6
2022 LAR 11 9 24 369 3
2023 LAR 5 4 8 108 0
2023 ATL 12 5 12 101 0

CollegeVan Jefferson, a Tennessee native, committed to Ole Miss to play football. Jefferson redshirted his first year on campus. In 2016, Jefferson appeared in 12 games and hauled in 49 passes for 543 yards and three touchdowns.

The following season, Jefferson finished second on the team with 42 receptions. Following the season, Jefferson transferred to Florida and was granted immediate eligibility.

Jefferson started all 26 games that he played in for the Gators and led the team receiving yards in both of his years on campus. In total, Jefferson appeared in 48 collegiate games and totaled 175 receptions, 2,159 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Year School GP Receptions Rec Yards Rec TDs
2015 Ole Miss 0 0 0 0
2016 Ole Miss 12 49 543 3
2017 Ole Miss 10 42 456 1
2018 Florida 13 35 503 6
2019 Florida 13 49 657 6

Salary cap and future: Van Jefferson’s one-year contract is worth $1.15 million in total money. He will receive a base salary of $1.12 million and a signing bonus of $167,500. Jefferson will become an unrestricted free agent following the 2024 season.