Steelers won’t take a wide receiver in first round of the 2022 NFL Draft
By Tommy Jaggi
The Steelers have no shortage of needs, but here’s why we can eliminate wide receiver as a position Pittsburgh will target in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Modern-day NFL analytics suggest that wide receiver is one of the most important positions in football. Great receivers are able to consistently impact the offense and increase its maximum potential. We saw this with Bengals rookie Ja’Marr Chase last season.
NFL teams are not oblivious to this research, and it’s why so many receivers have been taken in the first round as of late. In the 2022 NFL Draft, I’ve heard reports around the league that as many as six wide receivers could be selected in the first round this year.
This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost half of their receiving corps when JuJu Smith Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud all signed elsewhere. So far, Pittsburgh has only signed a return specialist with a wide receiver tag attached to his name. Newcomer Gunner Olszewski has just 9 receptions in 37 career games.
If you were one of those fans hoping the Steelers were going to target a receiver in the first round this year to help give them a spark on offense, you might not want to hold your breath. Based on everything we know about their historical trends, that isn’t happening.
As Pro days have come and gone, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert haven’t shown interest in the first-round wide receivers — a huge red flag that they will not be first-round candidates. Here are the players Pittsburgh’s brass did not visit at their Pro Days:
This evidence is quite telling. If the Steelers were legitimately interested in taking a wide receiver in the first round, they would have done their homework on these guys.
Two of the top six receivers this year have yet to hold their Pro Day workouts, but both Jameson Williams and Drake London are projected to be off the board before pick 20. George Pickens is the only early-round receiver Pittsburgh’s brass has met with so far, but this is likely because the Steelers would consider him in the second round.
Steelers QB visits trump the overall talent search
Whether you are a fan of the Steelers taking a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft or not, it certainly appears that this is the direction Tomlin and Colbert intend to go this April. While some call it a smokescreen, you don’t skip major Pro Days at schools like Penn State and Ohio State if you are not dead serious about drafting a quarterback.
The Steelers brass has been all up and down the eastern United States over the past month — visiting quarterbacks Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, and Desmond Ridder. They are also expected to be on hand for Sam Howell’s UNC Pro Day on March 28th.
In doing all of this, Pittsburgh not only missed out on a chance to visit with the top WR prospects this year but most of the prospects who are projected to be drafted in the Steelers range in the first round. This includes other players like OG Kenyon Green, OG Zion Johnson, DT Travis Jones, OT Trevor Penning, and OT Bernhard Raimann.
I’ve seen many fans in the past get excited about the idea of a player like Penn State WR Jahan Dotson joining this squad. Dotson is a smaller receiver, but he’s a terrific athlete and a very natural football player. Many have him projected in Pittsburgh’s draft range, but he will not be an option based on historical trends.
I don’t necessarily think that the Steelers should take a receiver in the first round. However, I can understand fans wanting to get an elite play-maker. Regardless, it looks like it’s going to be a QB this year for Pittsburgh, and if it’s not, wide receiver feels incredibly unlikely to be their top pick in the NFL Draft.