Steelers don’t have a single wide receiver listed among the top-32
By Tommy Jaggi
Pro Football Focus recently ranked the top-32 wide receivers in the NFL into tiers, but Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson missed the cut.
After a very inconsistent 2020 season in which he led the NFL in dropped passes, Diontae Johnson bounced back with a brilliant 2021 campaign. Despite dealing with below-average quarterback play and shakey target quality from an aging Ben Roethlisberger, Johnson broke out in a big way last year.
Still, it apparently wasn’t enough to even put him on the map for Pro Football Focus. Recently, Anthony Treash of PFF wrote an article ranking the top-32 NFL wide receivers into tiers. The Steelers didn’t have a single representative on the list.
Understandably, Johnson wasn’t in the first two tiers labeled “elite” and “young talent on the cusp of tier 1.” This second category was reserved for uber-upside and promising players like Debo Samuel, A.J. Brown, and Ceedee Lamb.
Some would argue that Johnson belongs in that category. Personally, I think he falls somewhere just below this group. However, Treash added three more player tiers below this, and Johnson didn’t fall into a single one of them. Towards the bottom of his list, players like Tyler Boyd, Julio Jones, and Darnell Mooney made the cut.
Steelers WR corps is getting stronger
Treash is entitled to his own opinion regarding the Steelers receivers. While I would never use volume numbers to argue how good a player is, Johnson not only had the production last season but his hands were much better and he can create separation at will — a very valuable trait to have as a receiver.
Regardless of these rankings, Steelers fans can look forward to what could be a very exciting era in Pittsburgh. Though we might not have an elite receiver at the moment, the Steelers have plenty of young guys with upside and I can see a scenario where this group goes from being an afterthought to one of the strongest and deepest receiving corpses in the NFL in a short amount of time.
Even with Ben Roethlisberger gone, I would expect Johnson to continue to build on his strongest campaign yet with whichever quarterback is at the helm. Meanwhile, I don’t think there could have been a QB worse for Chase Claypool’s skillset last year, as Ben simply couldn’t connect with him down the field. I would fully expect the big, athletic wideout to have a much better season in year three.
While the Steelers did lose three receivers this offseason in JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud, they replaced them with younger, more explosive players with high upside in George Pickens and Calvin Austin III. They also added special teams stud Myles Boykin and return specialist Gunner Olszewski via free agency.
The collection of these young players could make for a very good WR corps. Even if Pro Football Focus doesn’t believe Pittsburgh has a receiver worth slotting inside the top five tiers, that could change in a hurry. Fans should be excited to watch this young group in action this year.