Newly Acquired Steelers Receivers Could Already Be In Danger

The Pittsburgh Steelers made significant changes to their wide receiver group ahead of the 2024 season. Diontae Johnson was traded to the Carolina Panthers, along with a 2024 seventh-round pick for Donte Jackson and a 2024 sixth-round pick. Pittsburgh added Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins to the position room, leaving George Pickens and Calvin Austin III as the only receivers from 2023 remaining. More changes could be on the way before the Steelers settle on their group for 2024.

Newly Acquired Steelers Receivers Could Already Be In Danger

While Pickens is eager to prove that he is a legitimate number-one receiver in the NFL, depth at the position is a focus for the Steelers. Bringing in Jefferson and Watkins doesn’t have the feel of a team adding someone to attack defenses alongside Pickens. Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was on 93.7 The Fan and believes that Pittsburgh will end up cutting at least one of the depth receivers on the roster at the moment.

“They’re collecting number four and five receivers now, in my opinion. You got Watkins, you got Van Jefferson, and you have Calvin Austin [III]. I don’t view any of those guys, right now, as top-three receivers. So, I think there’s a pretty good chance that one of those guys won’t be on the roster come September.”

There is a ton of time before the Steelers start to play meaningful football in 2024, which leaves Pittsburgh room to continue retooling the receiver group. In 2023, Pickens put up an impressive 1,140 yards and five touchdowns to top his 2022 rookie season numbers of 801 yards with four scores. For a second-year receiver who endured extensive quarterback struggles, achieving nearly 2,000 in your first two years is a genuine accomplishment.

However, outside of Pickens, the Steelers have quantity, but may not have much in terms of production. Trading away Johnson may have been the best for both parties, but it still removed nearly 1,600 yards over the past two seasons in receiving. Watkins only managed 142 yards in 2023, Jefferson didn’t do much better with 209 yards, and Austin III tallied 180 yards, with the three receivers combining for two scores in 2023. Not really starting receiver numbers from anyone outside of Pickens.

If the Steelers end up making a splash move for someone like Justin Jefferson or Brandon Aiyuk, the receivers on the roster will certainly shift around to accommodate. A similar situation will occur if the Steelers decide to spend a high 2024 draft pick on a receiver. Either way, it appears to be the intention of the Steelers to add another reliable, high-production pass-catcher before the 2024 season begins. In the event of that happening, one of the three depth players at the position will most likely find themselves on the outside looking in.

Steelers Giving Pickens The Chance

When Pittsburgh used a second-round pick on Pickens during the 2022 NFL Draft, they knew they were getting an overlooked talent. Since then, Pickens hasn’t had the most reliable group of passers throwing the ball to him, and yet he has produced. It has come with some rocky points and questions regarding Pickens’ maturity, but in 2024, he should get the chance to truly show what he is all about.

Whether the Steelers decide to challenge Pickens with a big free agent signing, or by drafting a receiver, 2024 will be Pickens’ time to show that he can rise above. Distractions and frustrations are a part of life in the NFL, especially when you are trying to be the best at what you do. That means Pickens will need to not only produce, but do so in a way that shows he can shoulder a team when needed.

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