Steelers training camp: Don’t read into early WR pecking order

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Cody White (15). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Cody White (15). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Mike Tomlin has a ‘prove it’ mentality, so don’t read too much into the pecking order of Pittsburgh’s wide receivers early at Steelers training camp.

If you were on hand for the opening Steelers training camp practice yesterday or read Alex Kozora’s camp diary, you might have been surprised by the order in which the Pittsburgh Steelers deployed their wide receivers during drills and team sessions. Don’t be.

On day one of training camp, the ‘first-team’ wide receiver pecking order consisted of Anthony Miller, Chase Claypool, Cody White, Steven Sims, and George Pickens. The ‘second-team’ was Miles Boykin, Calvin Austin III, Tyler Vaughns, Gunner Olszewski, and Tyler Snead. During team sessions, it was much of the same.

However, I would urge you to not get too caught up on w

hich receivers were hitting the field first. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years is that Mike Tomlin likes to roll with the veterans and makes the younger and newer players prove it.

Steelers WR depth chart will look very different in September

Some of the players who were running with the first-team offense won’t even make the final roster to open the 2022 season. Cody White is a gym rat and a hard worker who is typically one of the first guys on the field and one of the last to leave, but he’s almost certain to head back to the practice squad again when the season starts. The same goes for Steven Sims who was on the practice squad last season.

Anthony Miller joins White and Sims as first-team receivers to open training camp, but this is strictly because these guys have not only been around the league for several years now, but they have been part of the organization since at least last season. The same cannot be said for another veteran like Miles Boykin who was claimed off waivers in 2022.

Obviously, fans are going to want to see young players with upside like George Pickens and Calvin Austin climb in the pecking order at wide receiver, and they will. It’s really just a matter of time.

As we draw closer to the regular season, expect this order to change dramatically, as we are likely to see Pickens, Austin, and potentially Boykin move up the depth chart. There’s also an off chance that another player who really shines this during Steelers training camp and preseason could get a boost in opportunities as well.

Diontae Johnson practiced individually and during positional drills, but did not take part in team practices as he seeks a new contract extension. While we would love to see him getting reps with his new quarterbacks, his decision to ‘hold in’ for the time being could provide more opportunities for other young receivers to shine.

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In the end, the wide receiver pecking order will sort itself out. For now, we just need to understand that the Steelers have a certain way of doing business, and part of that includes giving veterans the opportunities early and forcing the young guys to prove themselves.