This free agent could be the new WR2 for the Steelers with Diontae Johnson gone

Like it or not, this free agent wide receiver could wind up starting for the Steelers in 2024.

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers
NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Diontae Johnson's name was no stranger to trade rumors this offseason, and that came to fruition on Tuesday when he was traded to the Carolina Panthers.

The Steelers already needed a wide receiver, but the need has gotten even bigger with Johnson gone. George Pickens may be their top wide receiver, but nobody else on the depth chart has proven themself at the NFL level.

There are still plenty of names in the free agent class, but one of these sticks out when it comes to Arthur Smith's offense, and it is not one Steelers fans will like.

Josh Reynolds makes a lot of sense for the offense Arthur Smith is going to run

Many people, including myself, would like the Steelers to add a veteran as well as a rookie to their wide receiver room. However, with the team still having holes to fill, they may wait until later in the draft to address the wide receiver position and have a lower-level free agent serve as the WR2.

The name that sticks out when it comes to this is Josh Reynolds. Reynolds is 6'3" and nearly 200 pounds and has been a solid receiver at the NFL level thus far with both the Rams and Lions. While signing him would not be a flashy signing, he would be a solid veteran at the position, who is pretty reliable.

However, it's not his work as a receiver that makes him a good fit with Arthur Smith's offense, instead,three-wide it is his size and ability to block. Smith employs a run-heavy scheme and runs very few three wide receiver sets, which is likely part of the reason Johnson became expendable. He typically likes to have bigger-bodied wide receivers who are willing to get involved in the run game as blockers, and Reynolds would fit that bill.

Smith is no stranger to being thin at the wide receiver position, as his offenses have typically had one true alpha receiver, Drake London and A.J. Brown, in Tennessee and Atlanta respectively. However, after that, they have been extremely thin at the position with players like Mack Hollins and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine serving as his WR2.

While fans may not like this, Smith likes to run the ball, use play action, and get the tight ends involved early and often. The top wide receiver gets plenty of looks as well, but the rest of the wide receiver core typically is way less involved.

This may have just been the way his rosters have worked out, but if the Steelers fail to add a dynamic wide receiver alongside Pickens, it will become clear that this is not a coincidence, but a pattern, and the way that Smith builds an offense.

There are better WR2 options for the Steelers

While I have nothing against Reynolds as a player, I don't view him as a number two wide receiver on an NFL team. He is a reliable receiver who can be the number three but should not be the second option on a team.

I am fine with the team signing Reynolds as their second wide receiver if they intend to spend one of their early picks on a wideout (who is the guy expected to become the number 2 early on). However, if they expect to wait and draft a wide receiver on Day 3 who is more of a project, Reynolds should not be their wide receiver signing.

Instead, they should target a player like Mike Williams, who the Los Angeles Chargers just released to clear cap space. Like Reynolds, Williams provides a big-bodied wide receiver who fits the prototype needed for this offense. However, he has much more upside than Reynolds, as Williams has topped 1000 yards twice in his career, and Reynolds has never even reached 650 in a season.

While players like Tyler Boyd and Curtis Samuel are also attractive options, with the departure of Johnson, they've become less attractive as they feel more like slot receivers than number-two options.

It remains to be seen what the Steelers will do at the wide receiver position, but Reynolds and Williams fit the mold of an Arthur Smith wide receiver and thus appear to be logical targets for the team. The team should not be done there though as they need to draft one as well.

The less they spend on a free agent, the higher the priority spending a selection on the first two days on a wide receiver becomes.