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The Steelers Need to Commit to Their Young WR Core–Right Now

Antonio Brown is a New England Patriot. Le’Veon Bell is a New York Jet. It’s all officially official. And the Steelers offense sucks.

How do the Steelers fix it?

The easy answer is to change up their play-calling. Stop running their pitch plays and weird zone-pitch runs. Less five wide and more Vance McDonald.

The long answer is that the Steelers need to employ their young core consistently and efficiently. James Washington, though he made a couple mistakes against the Patriots, was clearly still the deep threat that he showed he could be in the preseason. He  Donte Moncrief‘s starting spot long-term. Nothing shows confidence in your receiver more than giving him 80% (or higher) of offensive snaps, and Washington could use a little bit of confidence right now.

The next question is what to do with Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. I’m far from giving up on JuJu on the outside, considering he was shadowed by the best man corner in the NFL, but he should still be getting a higher number of snaps in the slot. Instead, we saw him primarily on the outside, and were stuck with Ryan Switzer as the No. 1 slot guy. That’s a problem. Switzer has nice hands and a connection with Ben Roethlisberger, but he just does not have the burst, route-running or YAC ability to be a No. 1 slot in a top offense. Eli Rogers was, quite simply, the better option at WR, but he did not have the experience at Kick Returner (Switzer has been consistently mediocre in that area, too).

What’s the solution?

Start Diontae Johnson.

Johnson saw some meaningful snaps against the Patriots and did pretty well, flashing just a tiny bit, and showing just a little explosiveness. But he is clearly a better option than Switzer. Rotating him in the slot with JuJu, possibly at a 50/50 split (with the other starting as an outside receiver) might just be the solution. Once again, the Steelers are struggling to inspire confidence in their young receivers by forcing them to ride the bench and “learn” instead of giving them valuable game time. This is the right way to do it. Mix in some Jaylen Samuels in the slot, too

Oh and yeah. USE ROSIE NIX. Run like it’s the 20th century. James Conner is not Le’Veon Bell. Benny Snell most definitely isn’t. And Jaylen Samuels really isn’t either. Randy Fitchner needs to mix up the 5 wide and zone/counter run plays with tough, hard-nosing, fullback-leading-the-way kinda football.

That’s how you fix this offense.

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