Ranking Pittsburgh Steelers best options at slot receiver in 2021

Ray-Ray McCloud #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Ray-Ray McCloud #14 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

3. Diontae Johnson

Don’t make the mistake of believing that every sub-six-foot receiver that excels after the catch is made to play in the slot. Despite many Steelers fans claiming that Diontae Johnson would be better on the inside than he is on the outside, I strongly disagree with this.

Johnson is an “X” receiver through and through. He excels on the lone receiver side of the field and is terrific at beating press coverage off the line of scrimmage. Though he is incredibly slippery after the catch, moving him into the slot would mean missing out on some of the things he does best.

Additionally, Johnson has not been a great receiver when it comes to catching the ball in traffic over his first two years in the league – something that is almost a requirement of an NFL slot receiver.

Still, I believe he is still a better option than McCloud from this position due to his natural route-running ability. Johnson can play a few snaps from the slot here and there, but why take him away from the “X” receiver role when he is the best fit for this on the team. Diontae certainly needs to fix his drop issue (as he led the NFL in this department in 2020), but he’s too valuable on the outside with his ability to separate than to put him in the slot.