The Steelers haven’t had a legitimate deep threat since Martavis Bryant. Here’s why they need to find someone who can be a threat down the field.
It’s hard to read too much into anything that happened on the offensive side of the ball for the Steelers in 2019. After Ben Roethlisberger went down, Pittsburgh’s offense went up in flames. This is to be expected from pretty much every team who loses their franchise quarterback for the season.
However, even taking a look back at the previous few seasons, something has been missing from the Steelers offense. Though Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster still put up great numbers in the previous season, Pittsburgh’s offense is severely lacking deep speed.
Now more than ever it seems, there is no offensive weapon on Pittsburgh that really scares opposing defenses down the field. James Washington is more of a possession deep ball receiver who wins with his ability to track to ball and box out defenders. JuJu’s damage down the field is done in the same way.
While Diontae Johnson is clearly the speediest of Pittsburgh’s top three receivers, he’s quicker than fast and doesn’t have that extra gear the Steelers typically look for in a true deep threat. the Steelers top three receivers average in at a 4.54s 40-yard dash – a number that doesn’t exactly suggest they could blow by defensive backs.
It’s time for the Steelers to get a legitimate deep threat.
Some of Pittsburgh’s best offensive seasons have come with Martavis Bryant and Mike Wallace exploiting defenses deep down the field. In fact, in 2014 and 2015 before Bryant was suspended indefinitely, the Steelers offense was at its peak. They finished 7th in points and 2nd in yards in 2014 (Bryant’s rookie season), and 4th in points and 3rd in yards in 2015.
The Steelers were 27-9 in regular-season games that Martavis played in, and it’s not a coincidence that these offensive performances go hand-in-hand with Bryant’s availability on the football field.
Even when a player like Bryant or Wallace isn’t touching the football, they are opening things up for everyone else down the field. Since his departure from the Steelers, defenses haven’t had to fear another presence deep down the field.
Good deep threats can make a real difference in the NFL, and the Steelers should know that as well as anyone. I fully expect Pittsburgh to add a receiver in the draft this year. If they can get a guy with legitimate speed, it could force defenses to respect their offense once again.