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What Would Tyler Boyd Bring to Steelers Offense?

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Pittsburgh Steelers WR Tyler Boyd

After trading Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers, the Pittsburgh Steelers need for a receiver increased overnight. In their search to add more firepower to the room, they could turn to to Clairton High School’s own, Tyler Boyd. A second-round pick back in 2016, the Pittsburgh native quickly established as one of the more dangerous slot receivers in the game. After playing in the shadows of so many talented Cincinnati Bengals receivers, Boyd has the chance to remain in the AFC North while getting a fresh start in a new environment. 

Now 29-years old and coming off his least productive season since 2017, what does Boyd have to offer the Steelers offense led by Arthur Smith and newly acquired signal caller Russell Wilson?

First and foremost, Boyd’s a proven commodity on the field with production that speaks for itself. He’s amassed 6,000 career receiving yards and 31 touchdowns despite spending almost the entirety of his time with Bengals as a second or third option. Over the last decade, we started to see bigger slot receivers break into the league and Boyd was one of the original prototypes. 81% of his career snaps and 87% of his receptions have come when aligned inside.

At 6-1 and roughly 200 pounds, his size comes in handy for obvious reasons. Boyd has a nice catch radius, extremely reliable hands and showcases the ability to adjust to off-target throws on the move. It’s obvious that he’s a natural hands catcher with pristine technique and guides the football in effortlessly on throws away from his frame. At the top of routes, he can use his body to create excess separation. His toughness shines over the middle, where he’s willing to take hits but can also use his body to wall off defenders to make contested catches. It’s worth pointing out that he’s both a willing and capable blocker when asked to dig out safeties in the run game and block on the perimeter on screens.

The vast majority of his work is done in the underneath and intermediate areas of the field. Boyd has a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverages because of his ability to read the leverage of multiple defenders at once. Once he gets gets vision on the quarterback, he’ll work to find open space and take friendly angles to avoid giving defenders a chance to make a play on the ball. Boyd shows situational awareness for where the first down marker is and his numbers reflect that. 59% of his catches have went for first downs at the NFL level.

Part of the allure with Boyd’s game is that he’s a quality separator against man coverage as well. He understands how to use route stems to create leverage for himself and will tempo his routes to pull coverage players to sleep before cutting in another direction. At the break point, Boyd is super smooth as hell lean on defenders to give them false hope before creating space in the opposite direction. For a player with nice size, his hips are fluid and he can change direction with ease. He understands how to set defenders up and every in or out-breaking route is within his wheel house. 

Essentially Boyd’s entire body of work has come from the slot and in a system that has always deployed multiple high-level threats which has taken the attention off him. The Bengals offense placed him in bunch or stacked sets to often give him a free release off the line. A good chunk of his production is him fearing on linebackers underneath, which is valuable in a sense but not necessarily something that’s incredibly different to find. In Arthur Smith’s system that uses a lot of two-receiver sets, it’s fair to wonder how he may fare on the outside for a significant chunk of his snaps. The tightened splits should naturally reduce the amount of press coverage exposure but this will still be a transition for him. 

Boyd is a very reliable player, who does several things well but one of the reasons that he’s often played second or third fiddle to others is that he’s simply not that explosive. He’s not a vertical threat, has a limited sample size outside versus press and isn’t extremely dynamic after the catch. He’s a possession receiver who moves the chains. That’s a nice archetype to have in the room but they shouldn’t expect him to work on the perimeter and get his own buckets versus starting caliber cornerbacks. 

As he enters his 30s, Boyd is still a useful WR3 and a good veteran presence for a receiver room in transition. His selfless attitude would be a breath of fresh air in the building. Adding a player like Boyd shouldn’t prohibit the franchise from adding another talented weapon fairly early on draft weekend. If you combined George Pickens, Tyler Boyd and another dynamic playmaker on the outside, that’s a very formidable group for 2024 and beyond.