Steelers will have an odd man out at wide receiver in 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Pittsburgh’s receiving corps should be exciting this year, but here’s why one Steelers receiver could prove to be the odd man out in 2022. 

Having plenty of depth is never a bad thing, but finding roles for everyone can certainly be a challenge. Prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, I didn’t think the Pittsburgh Steelers would be in a situation at wide receiver where there are too many bodies and not enough mouths to feed, but it’s starting to look like that could be the case.

After losing JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud this offseason, Pittsburgh’s receiving corps was looking razor thin. However, that quickly changed with several big additions.

Over the offseason, Pittsburgh added All-Pro return man Gunner Olszewski and claimed Miles Boykin off waivers. However, it was their decisions during the draft that threw a monkey wrench into the wide receiver outlook.

The Steelers selected two receivers in the first four rounds of the draft: George Pickens and Calvin Austin III. With these additions, Pittsburgh now has four receivers legitimately fighting for playing time and one could likely prove to be the odd man out.

Who will be the odd man out in Steelers WR corps?

Last year, the ‘odd man out’ for the Steelers was clearly James Washington. Despite typically impressing when targeted in the passing game, there just wasn’t a clearly defined role for Washington on the Steelers among the top four receivers. This was mostly the case for his first four seasons.

So who could that player be this year? Obviously, we would love to think that Matt Canada Pittsburgh’s coaching staff will be innovative enough to get all four of their top receivers involved regularly. These players include Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, and Calvin Austin. However, based on what we have seen over the past several years, one player could be taking a backseat.

The Steelers found some success in ’12’ personnel last year (two tight ends and one running back), but this means there are just two receivers on the field in this formation. ’11’ personnel was their most used formation on offense, but that still only allows for three of these receivers on the field at once.

In order for all four of Pittsburgh’s receivers to be involved regularly, there would have to be a heavy rotation, but that’s not guaranteed to happen. Let’s start with what we know.

Diontae Johnson is the starting ‘X’ receiver for Pittsburgh and that won’t change in 2022. Regardless of his contract situation, he will rarely leave the field and will likely become a go-to target for either Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett this year.

Last year, Chase Claypool was the ‘Z’ receiver who received the second-most looks in the passing game. This is where things get interesting. George Pickens is also best as a ‘Z’ receiver so I wonder how the coaching staff will divide snaps here.

One solution would be to kick Claypool inside to the slot during ’11’ personnel packages, but it’s possible the team will be unwilling to do this. Even if they did, that would probably only end up reducing the role of Calvin Austin (who is projected to be a slot receiver at the NFL level).

If the Steelers elect to keep Claypool on the outside, he and Pickens could be the two dogs fighting for one bone this year. However, I have a feeling Pittsburgh is going to want to get their best playmakers on the field together.

This doesn’t even count players like Miles Boykin and Gunner Olszewski who could prove to play minor roles on offense.

Trending. NFL player comparisons for Pittsburgh Steelers WR Calvin Austin III. light

Perhaps the Steelers will do a better job handling roles and snaps counts at the wide receiver position than they have in the past, but something tells me there could be an odd man out in 2022. If the Steelers don’t want to move Claypool or Pickens inside, they could be fighting for essentially the same role on offense.