Exiting training camp and gearing up for their second preseason game, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver depth chart appears to me to be:
(Players in bold, are projected to make the roster)
LWR (X) Donte Moncrief, Diontae Johnson
Diontae Spencer (+) Tevin Jones (+)
SWR (Y) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer,
Eli Rogers (-)
RWR (Z) James Washington, Johnny Holton (+),
Trey Griffey (-), Brandon Reilly (-)
Receivers lost: Antonio Brown (Traded), Darrius Heyward-Bey (FA-currently unsigned)
I’ve placed the deep ball receivers with size on the Right (Z), more polished route running receivers on the Left (X), and slot guys are in the Middle (Y). Last year, the Steelers kept six receivers, and I expect them to do the same this season.
Donte Moncrief and Dionte Johnson have been banged up in camp and didn’t play in the first preseason game, allowing Dionte Spencer to get a lot of reps. His receiving was up and down. Had a drop, but had some nice catches as well. He needs to improve his downfield blocking. Looked really confident and explosive as both a kick returner and a punt returner. He’s on the bubble for sure. Tevin Jones is having a great camp and is being moved around a bit. He had a strong showing in the first preseason game and capped it off with a touchdown. There is just so much talent here, he may be the odd man out because of it.
JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t playing in the preseason, but he’s a lock on this team. He’s still making a ton of plays in training camp, and is leading the WRs in camp with touchdown receptions. Ryan Switzer was doing the dirty work in the first game. Good blocking, but held off of the stat sheet. Eli Rogers is having a quiet camp and was held out of the first preseason game. It could be because the Steelers like him, or are being extra cautious with him, but I expect to see him compete in the upcoming games.
James Washington put on a show in the first half of the first preseason game. Four catches for 85 yards and a touchdown on a beautiful back shoulder catch from his college QB (Mason Rudolph). It was a great performance, and hopefully it propels him for bigger and better things this season. Johnny Holton’s 60-yard catch and run was a thing of beauty. If you’ve seen his film, you know he is capable of that. Serving as a gunner on the coverage teams really helps his chances to make this roster as well. Trey Griffey is making plays downfield in camp, but he’s not making plays in preseason games yet. We’ll see how he performs this week. Brandon Reilly is a new guy added to the mix. He’s a big bodied guy that is combative and great at attacking the ball in the air downfield. He lacks the speed to really separate and finish plays. Right now he looks like a camp body.
This first preseason game had more production from the Z receivers than in any other single game last season. Getting the Z receivers into the game really helps the offense cash in on big plays deep, while also stretching out the defense to open up the running game and short passing lanes. Production here would go a long way in making the Steelers’ offense even more diverse, and tougher to stop this season.
This is a tough group to call this season since the competition level is so high, and each of them has positives that can help the team in different ways. The big change on this depth chart from my last was Johnny Holton getting the nod over Eli Rogers. It’s still anyone’s guess. I have JuJu, Johnson, and Moncreif as locks. Washington should also make the roster. So that means Spencer, Rogers, Switzer, and Holton are fighting for the final 2 WR spots. This is a competitive group, and I expect this decision to go down to the wire, because I feel all of them are NFL capable wide receivers.
Who do you think should make the final roster spot as a wide receiver? Comment below and share your thoughts.