Steelers trio of wide receivers could ‘reshape the NFL’
The Steelers have a trio of young wide receivers who show a lot of promise. Here’s why one NFL writer believes they could ‘reshape the NFL.’
We all know the Steelers track record when it comes to drafting the wide receiver position. But in previous years, receivers didn’t make a dent on the team until they’ve had a few seasons to establish themselves in the league. However, NFL wide receivers now seem to be contributing much earlier than ever before.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is evidence of this, as he was the youngest player ever to each 2,500 receiving yards (22 years, 297 days) – surpassing all-time great, Randy Moss (22 years 310 days). While these numbers are mind-blowing, he isn’t the only young Steelers receiver hitting the stat sheet. Diontae Johnson and James Washington combined for 1,415 yards and 8 touchdowns in their first seasons as starters in 2019.
Their accomplishments at such a young age didn’t go unnoticed. Recently, Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report mentioned several young receivers, including A.J. Brown and Courtland Sutton, who will ‘reshape the NFL.’ The Steelers trio was the only group mentioned. Here’s what Tanier had to say:
"JuJu Smith-Schuster already has 211 career receptions for 2,895 yards and 17 touchdowns, plus an Instagram presence that puts some movie stars to shame, and he doesn’t even turn 24 until November. Smith-Schuster is coming off an injury-marred year in which Dionte Johnson (who recorded a 59-680-5 stat line and turned 24 on Sunday) and James Washington (44-735-3, turned 24 in April) had to pick up the slack while Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges did most of the passing.Johnson and Washington both have speed to burn, and Smith-Schuster has already proved what he can do when healthy. The only thing keeping any one member of this trio from breaking out is the likelihood that all three of them will get a healthy share of the targets."
After watching these three players get to work last season, it’s not hard to see why they were included in this list. While JuJu struggled at times last season as he dealt with injuries, we have seen what he can accomplish when given some help across from him and some talent at the quarterback position.
Johnson and Washington, however, we terrific in 2019. Despite shaky targets coming from Mason Rudolph and Delvin Hodges, Washington graded out as the 21st ranked receiver in the NFL in yards per target, while Johnson led all NFL wide receivers in separation per route run, according to Playerprofiler.com’s advanced analytics.
This trio of receivers will have immensely more help next to them this year with Ben Roethlisberger returning to the fold and with Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool added to the mix. Though Pittsburgh may not have a legitimate number one receiver at this point in time, they have a trio of players who either are or could become WR2s in the NFL.
It will be interesting to see how Ben Roethlisberger divvies up targets this season, but we would have to assume that the young trio of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington would build on their performances after dealing with backup quarterbacks from last season. If they do, they could earn a lot more attention on their way to reshaping the position in the NFL.