In Pittsburgh there is always one thing you can trust, their evaluation of Wide Receivers. Yes over the past few years there have been some notable washouts like Marcus Wheaton and Sammy Coates but for the most part Pittsburgh has a solid track record. With stars like Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant (to a point), and Juju Smith-Schuster as popular examples, it’s easy to trust the Steelers when it comes to picking receivers. However with the rise of Juju Smith-Schuster and the departure of Antonio Brown it begs the question of who will be the number two? The candidates are: Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Eli Rodgers, and Dionte Johnson. Let’s have some fun and predict who the new number 2 will be!
Camp Reports are already glowing about Moncrief and how quick he has caught onto the offense. He left the Colts for greener pastures. All things considered he did well in a Blake Bortles run offense. The Steelers have brought in Free Agent receivers in the past like Darius Heyward-Bey and Lance Moore but they were low risk signings to help fill depth. Donte Moncrief is different and it is very possible he will be the number two receiver this year. His career average in yards per reception is 12.7 so if he and Big Ben can get on the same page he can finally have that breakout season we have been waiting for.
The longest tenured Steelers wide Receiver at this point, there has been a rapport with Ben and Eli at times but injuries or other circumstances have prevented a true breakout. He will be competing with Ryan Switzer for the slot position and kick/punt returner so it will be an interesting camp battle to watch. However, if Rodgers loses the spot to Switzer I think his days in Pittsburgh may come to an end.
Former Cowboy, former Raider, now Steeler, Switzer has displayed big play potential in both returning and working from the slot. Switzer is in his third year in the league and his second year in Pittsburgh. Switzer can probably beat out Eli for the slot position and doing return duties but I don’t know if either Switzer or Eli will be the true number 2.
It is hard to ignore PFF’s analysis of James Washington. He ranks at #117 which is below average. This is concerning but also keep in mind that Rookies rarely have success in the Steelers system. Notable exceptions being Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster in recent years. I am not ready to write off James Washington yet and I believe that there is a chance that James Washington will surprise everyone this year. Juju already has confidence is Washington’s progress this offseason so if he can continue to build a rapport with Roethlisberger then Washington could make a leap forward this season.
The Steelers apparently had a first round grade on Dionte Johnson, who they got in the 3rd round. Joe Haden has already given praise and Big Ben has tested him during OTAs. News from Mini Camp stated that Johnson is already showing promise. I personally do not believe that Johnson will get a lot of work or targets early. However, if James Washington and/or Donte Moncrief struggle on the field or get injured, then I believe that Johnson will see a rise in targets and may possibly have a late breakout.
As of right now my money would be Donte Moncrief to line up opposite of Juju in two receiver sets, with Washington going outside and JuJu to the slot in three receiver sets. However, if Dionte Johnson continues to show promise then you have to wonder how safe the number two job is. There is also the case to be made for Ryan Switzer, he has flashed from the slot and his abilities can’t be overlooked. Of all the wide receivers listed here Eli Rodgers seems to be the odd man out. I think by the end of training camp the Depth Chart will be:
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – Slot, Outside
- Donte Moncrief – Outside
- James Washington – Outside
- Ryan Switzer – Slot, Kick/Punt Return
- Dionte Johnson – Backup
Eli Rodgers– Released
Pittsburgh is in a good spot right now because they have a plethora of talent at the position and the battle for a starting spot will be one of the highlights to watch in Steelers Training Camp this summer!