Mike Tomlin hints at when Steelers could take a wide receiver in the NFL Draft

Tomlin's recent comments are the latest in a trail of breadcrumbs pointing to where the Steelers will look at WR in the draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed two free-agent receivers this offseason, but don't be fooled into thinking that will stop them from dipping their toes in the WR pool during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Quez Watkins joins Van Jefferson as the latest wide receiver to be signed by the Steelers in free agency, but a major need at the position still remains. Leaving Pittsburgh are players like Diontae Johnson (traded to the Panthers), Allen Robinson (released), and Miles Boykin (expired contract).

It has been speculated that the Steelers could take a wide receiver as early as the first round. Pittsburgh holds the 20th overall pick in the NFL Draft this year, and they had formal meetings with talented prospects like LSU's Brian Thomas Jr. and Texas' Adonai Mitchell at the NFL Combine.

However, recent comments from Mike Tomlin at the NFL owners' meeting suggest that Pittsburgh has a different plan in mind when it comes to drafting the wide receiver position.

"The draft is probably unusually deep at that position and has been for the last several years. I just think that receivers and those that cover them come probably a little bit more ready in today’s game than maybe in years past. I think it’s the evolution of seven-on-seven football for high school kids. I just think their development, the skills relative to their positions come with a higher floor... And I think that’s why there’s always a lot of wide-outs that appear to be game-ready, corners that appear to be game-ready. They’re playing football and working on skills relative to football over the course of a twelve-month calendar during significant developmental age groups now.”"

Mike Tomlin

Obviously, Tomlin isn't going to come right out and talk about specific rounds that the Steelers are going to be targeting certain positional groups, but we can read between the lines here. The trail of breadcrumbs leads to Pittsburgh taking a receiver on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Steelers seem destined to take a WR on Day 2 of the NFL Draft

Mike Tomlin made mention of this 'unusually deep' group of receivers while being sure to mention that 'more ready' to step into a role right away in today's game. He wouldn't be talking about the receivers this way in the first round, as they would obviously be ready to contribute.

At the same time, the fact that Tomlin is looking for receivers who can contribute from the gate shows that he's not talking about a late-round flier at the position here.

The proof is in the pudding. Just look at Pittsburgh's current wide receiver room. George Pickens has a chance to be a true WR1 in the NFL, but this team doesn't have so much as a single true WR2 candidate. Players like Van Jefferson, Quez Watkins, and Calvin Austin are all WR3s in the NFL, at best (and some would make the case that these players are best as WR4s).

The Steelers certainly can't go into the season without a quality number-two option in the receiving game. Addressing WR in the second or third round in the NFL Draft could change that. Pittsburgh has expressed interest in early Day 2 candidates like Keon Coleman, Xavier Legette, Roman Wilson, Ricky Pearsall, and Troy Franklin.

On paper, all of these names would look like a solid WR2 pairing with George Pickens in Arthur Smith's offense.

This doesn't mean that it's impossible for the Steelers to take a wide receiver in the first round, but the fact that Mike Tomlin pointed to the depth at the WR position and the pro-readiness of today's receivers suggests that Pittsburgh can find their starting wide receiver to pair with George Pickens on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft.