Steelers young receiving core could prove to be both good and bad

JuJu Smith-Schuster Diontae Johnson James Washington Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster Diontae Johnson James Washington Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the youngest receiving cores in the league heading into the 2020 season. Here’s why that’s both good and bad.

There was a time back in the day when the Steelers were full of aging skill players. While their offensive linemen are no spring chickens, Pittsburgh currently owns one of the league’s youngest groups of wide receivers heading into the 2020 season.

Their lead dog, JuJu Smith-Schuster, is still just 23-and-a-half years old heading into his 4th NFL season. Here’s a look Pittsburgh’s projected top six receivers and their current ages:

Remarkably, the oldest receiver in the Steelers locker room is Ryan Switzer – a former 4th round pick by the Dallas Cowboys who has played just three seasons in the NFL.

Third-year receiver James Washington is the second-oldest of the group, and the average age of a Steelers receiver is just 23.6 years old. This could be both good and bad for the Steelers.

Obviously, it’s important to have youth on the football field, and most of these players have yet to see their best days in the NFL. The combination of JuJu, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Chase Claypool could be lethal in a few years if JuJu sticks around, and the arrow is currently pointed up for each player.

Unfortunately, there is a downside. A room full of young wide receivers may not be the perfect recipe for success in a closing Super Bowl window, and they don’t have a veteran leader like they did in years past to be a mentor to these young guys. That may not seem like much, but it’s something they have almost always had.

Still, it’s hard to complain that the group of guys you have are ‘too young’ and that’s a ‘problem’ most general managers would love to have. It will be interesting to see how Mike Tomlin and Randy Fichtner decide to divvy out snaps in 2020, and if there will be a receiver who is left out of the mix.

Johnson and Washington had very good seasons in 2019 despite poor quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Both receivers do their best work outside of the hashes, while Smith-Schuster and Claypool could see the bulk of their production coming from the slot.

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Whichever way you slice it, the Steelers have a very young group of receivers this year who should continue to improve with the more game experience they earn. They may not seem like much now, but with some time, they could develop into one of the better receiving cores in the league. Let’s just hope that their lack of experience and veteran leadership ends up costing them in a rapidly closing Super Bowl window.