Steelers receiving corps ranked below-average entering 2021 season

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers wide receivers have shown a lot of promise, but here’s why Pro Football Focus has them ranked below-average entering 2021.

Pittsburgh’s wide receiver corps has given us a lot to get excited about. We all know they had their inconsistencies last year (I’m looking at you, Diontae Johnson). Between their young players, there were far too many drops and missed opportunities, but the talent and upside is all there.

Still, you are going to have a hard time convincing Pro Football Focus of that. Recently, PFF’s Steve Palazzolo wrote an article ranking all 32 receiving corps in the NFL. He had the Steelers in the bottom half of the league at 18th.

His reasoning? The Steelers struggled to create explosive plays. Palazzolo also pointed out that Diontae Johnson was marred by 14 dropped passes (which is admittedly an inexcusable number). PFF also took tight ends into account here, and Palazzolo noted Eric Ebron’s poor overall grade of just 57.5 in 2020. He also struggled mightily with 9 drops on 72 catchable targets.

Why Steelers receiving corps will prove to be better than 18th

Some of the teams ahead of Pittsburgh in these rankings left me scratching my head, The Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, and Green Bay Packers all have some solid receiving options, but I personally would have had the Steelers weapons ranked higher.

I’ll be the first to admit that there were some major struggles when it came to Pittsburgh’s receivers last season, but there is also a lot to get excited about. Most thought that JuJu Smith-Schuster was a goner this offseason, but when the wide receiver market fell through, he returned to the Steelers on a team-friendly, one-year deal.

Diontae Johnson did take a step back in 2020, but it’s reasonable to assume that he won’t have a whopping 14 drops again this season. Pittsburgh’s top four receivers are all 25 years old or younger, and it stands to reason that they will all take a step forward this season.

Chase Claypool, in particular, has shown a tremendous amount of promise. Wide receivers like him don’t come around every day. At 6’4” and 238 pounds, Claypool moves like a significantly smaller player and is quite impressive after the catch. Combine that with the speed and ability to win down the field, and you have the makings of a potential future number one receiver.

In addition, Pittsburgh should get a boost in the receiving game from a few other new skill players. Najee Harris showed tremendous receiving ability during his time at Alabama. He can help pick right up where Le’Veon Bell left off in 2017. Additionally, Pat Freiermuth should give Pittsburgh’s offense a boost in the passing game as a physical receiving threat over the middle of the field.

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The Steelers wide receivers must become more consistent as a unit in 2021 to help out their aging quarterback, but I believe they will do so. If they take a step forward, this unit could be as good and as deep as any receiving corps in the NFL.