Steelers fans need to trust the system when it comes to wide receivers

James Washington #13 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
James Washington #13 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Steelers are historically great at producing talent at wide receiver. Here’s why fans need to trust the system if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves. 

Over the past twenty years, no NFL team has been better at drafting, developing, and getting quality production out of the wide receiver position. However, the time has come where JuJu Smith-Schuster will soon ink a rich new contract with a different organization, and Steelers fans are starting to panic.

According to NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo, Smith-Schuster has informed his teammates that he is likely to sign elsewhere in free agency. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The Steelers just don’t have money to spare, and bringing back JuJu seems much more like a luxury than a necessity at this point.

While some fans are starting to hit the panic button now that one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets will no longer be with the team, there really isn’t a reason to worry. If we’ve learned one thing about the Steelers by now it’s that they are experts when it comes to finding players who can produce at wide receiver.

Steelers fans don’t need to panic

When is the last time the Steelers have gone without a quality wide receiver? When Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward left the team, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders came along to take their place. When Wallace and Sanders left, Martavis Bryant later filled the void to become one of the best deep threats in the NFL. Sure, there are misses along the way, but Pittsburgh has shown why we should trust the system.

Outside of Hines Ward and Antonio Brown, no other notable Steelers receiver has even made it to a second contract with the team. So why should we view JuJu’s situation any differently?

The Steelers still have Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington on the depth chart, and this team is certainly going to add a receiver at some point in the draft. Washington is particularly interesting to me. The least popular of Pittsburgh’s top four receivers, Washington has quietly been one of their most efficient offensive players over the past two years – even leading the team in receiving in 2019.

Washington is better suited as an outside receiver than as a replacement for JuJu in the slot, so it’s possible that he could become the starting ‘Z’ receiver in ’11’ personnel with Claypool kicking inside as the big slot.

As far as drafting is concerned, we all know Pittsburgh’s track record here. While there have been misses on day-two picks over the years on players like Sammie Coates and Limas Sweed, the Steelers aren’t going to have any problem finding a fourth wide receiver in the draft who can contribute as early as their rookie season.

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At the end of the day, JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get paid good money to play somewhere else, but his absence from the Steelers isn’t going to break this team. Pittsburgh might be the best team in the NFL when it comes to developing young wide receivers, and we just need to trust the process again in 2021.