Steelers must seek Diontae Johnson's replacement in the draft (not blockbuster trade)

While it's fun to speculate about acquiring a star wide receiver, the Steelers should look to the draft for their big acquisition at the position.

San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers
San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

The Steelers have been extremely active this offseason, both on the trade front and in free agency. This is new for Steelers fans, as the fanbase had grown accustomed to a much more subdued approach while building primarily through the draft under Kevin Colbert.

Steelers fans have quickly seen that things will operate differently with Omar Khan at the helm. The team has already brought in Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, Patrick Queen, Van Jefferson, and DeShon Elliott, among others, and they may not be done yet.

The team has been linked in trade rumors to some of the top wide receivers in the game, and with the moves the Steelers have already made, it would not be a surprise if they do make a move. However, the real question is should they make a big trade for a wide receiver?

Steelers should not trade for a star wide receiver

Brandon Aiyuk and Terry McLaurin are two names the Steelers are being linked to as possible acquisitions at the wide receiver position. The team has also been linked to Justin Jefferson, but that is likely just a pipe dream, as the price to acquire Jefferson would be outrageous.

While the Steelers do need a wide receiver after trading away Diontae Johnson, I don't believe that acquiring his replacement via trade is the way to go.

The cost to acquire someone like Aiyuk will likely be high as the Steelers would have to give up good draft capital to get him, and then would also have to follow this up by inking him to a massive contract extension. While the Steelers do need to spend on the offensive side of the ball, and Aiyuk is a great player, I don't view him as the elite of the elite, so giving him something in the range of $30 million doesn't feel like the smartest move.

McLaurin on the other hand would likely not cost as much to acquire as Aiyuk, as he is two years older, and hasn't produced as much as Aiyuk. He would be a welcome addition to the wide receiver room but will turn 29 in September, and may soon be leaving the prime of his career.

Additionally, the Steelers offense under Arthur Smith projects to be very run-heavy. Tying up big money at the position while trading away a pick to acquire a player at the wide receiver position feels like a misuse of assets, when the scheme they will be running likely won't leave an opportunity for heavy targets for George Pickens and whoever they bring in.

Steelers must find Johnson's replacement in the NFL Draft

While it may be enticing to get an established NFL player who has a proven track record, the Steelers would be better served to find their next wide receiver in the NFL Draft.

This year's wide receiver class is loaded, and although they won't get one of the top guys, that doesn't mean they can't get a good player. If the team decides to select one in the first round, players such as Brian Thomas Jr., Troy Franklin, or Adonai Mitchell could be targets. Or they could look to take one in the second round and target a player such as Ladd McConkey, Keon Coleman, or Ja'Lynn Polk.

The Steelers have built up a reputation of being a wide receiver factory, drafting players such as Antonio Brown, George Pickens, Mike Wallace, Martavis Bryant, Diontae Johnson, Emmanuel Sanders, Juju, Smith-Schuster, and others after the first day of the NFL Draft. So it would be no surprise if the team waited until after the second round, or even later, and maybe selected a player such as Brenden Rice.

Who the team selects remains to be seen, but whoever they pick will be an upgrade to the wide receiver room. Adding a young talent to the room to improve the position on a cheap contract is the best option for the team, especially considering the depth of this year's class, and that many of the players this year will be available later than a normal year, due to the sheer depth of the class.

The Steelers have been linked to numerous star wide receivers via trade, but they should not be looking to fill this need in the 2024 NFL Draft.