The Steelers have been known for their ability to draft and develop wide receiver talent. Here’s why Pittsburgh is building their receiving corps the right way.
From Hines Ward to Antonio Brown to JuJu Smith-Schuster, it doesn’t take a football expert to know the success the Steelers have had at the wide receiver position. Even though Pittsburgh has spent just one first-round pick on a wide receiver in the past 20 years (Santonio Homles in 2006) they apparently know what they’re doing when it comes to finding talent at the position.
There are NFL teams out there who spend more capital on wide receivers than the Steelers, but why is Pittsburgh widely considered the best team in the league at drafting and developing wide receivers? A large part of the reason has to do with how they build their wide receiving corps.
Why Steelers philosophy is proven for drafting receivers
Pittsburgh knows the value of the wide receiver position as well as anyone, and Kevin Colbert is a mastermind at finding players that fit what they need. While some teams pour first-round picks into the position or overpay for receivers in free agency, the Steelers take a different approach.
Though they don’t always hit, the Steelers draft a receiver nearly every year – typically in the 2nd or 3rd round. While they don’t always hit with their picks (as players like Limas Sweed and Sammie Coates are a testament to) typically, this strategy works out in their favor.
Since 2009, the Steelers have hit on receivers like Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Most recently, James Washington and Diontae Johnson are shaping up to be success stories as well. Surprisingly, none of these players were taken higher than a mid-second-round pick.
Though the Steelers will occasionally miss by using this draft philosophy, whiffing on a second or third-round draft choice isn’t going to set your team back.
Another thing the Steelers have done right is allowing talented wide receivers to walk while continuing to invest in the position. As good as some of their receivers were, Pittsburgh allowed players like Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, and Emmanuel Sanders to hit the market as soon as their rookie contracts expired. With the money they saved, they were able to invest it in other positions.
Because the Steelers trust their ability to draft wide receivers, those players were replaced with new talent – a trend that has continued to work for over 20 years. Chase Claypool is the most recent day-two draft choice in a long line of replenishing the wide receiver position. If JuJu follows suit and the Steelers allow him to walk after the 2020 season, Pittsburgh has already been doing their part in making sure there is talent to go around at wide receiver.
Right now, Pittsburgh has a very young receiving corps. But if you are to trust any team in how they draft, develop, and manage their wide receivers, it’s the Steelers. They are building their receiving corps the right way.