Steelers Linked to Former 2-Time All-Pro WR

The Pittsburgh Steelers possess a formidable 1-2 punch at wide receiver with Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. The Steelers also have third-year wideout Calvin Austin and veteran Allen Robinson.

Mike Tomlin Michael Thomas

But with the expectation that Robinson could be a cap casualty this offseason, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger suggested the Steelers as a landing spot for 2-time All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

“Pittsburgh brought Allen Robinson aboard to serve as the big slot possession receiver in 2023, and while his lack of production was not entirely his own doing, perhaps the Steelers take another swing with Thomas coming in as the No. 3 alongside Diontae Johnson and George Pickens,” Spielberger wrote. “Moving Johnson and Pickens into the slot more to help create more separation on out-breakers like corner routes, an area Pickens excelled in 2023, adds more versatility to the whole unit.”

From 2018-19, Thomas was arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. He led the league in catches both seasons. His 149 catches during 2019 set a new NFL record.

Thomas also had an NFL-high 1,725 receiving yards in 2019.

He made first-team All-Pro in both 2018 and 2019. Thomas earned the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award in 2019 as well.

However, Thomas hasn’t been the same player the past four seasons largely because of injuries. He posted 39 catches for 448 yards and 1 touchdown in 10 games for the New Orleans Saints last season.

Thomas ended the 2023 season on injured reserve. He sustained a season-ending knee injury on November 12.

How Michael Thomas Could Fit With the Steelers

The Steelers can save $10 million by cutting Robinson this offseason. While he was a valuable blocker for the team in 2023, that’s practically a no-brainer cut with Pittsburgh sitting more than $14 million over the salary cap according to Spotrac.

In his place, the Steelers could sign Thomas, who has experience playing in both the slot and outside.

Last season, he played 381 snaps out wide and 109 snaps in the slot according to PFF.

Thomas signed a 1-year, $10 million contract to stay with the Saints in 2023. New Orleans drafted Thomas in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, and he’s never played for another team.

Spotrac projected the 30-year-old’s market value to be $9.2 million on a 1-year contract this offseason.

While that’s not necessarily cheap, it’s less than what Robinson is scheduled to make. Thomas has also been more productive than his fellow 30-year-old when healthy.

Robinson had 34 catches for 280 yards with zero touchdowns in 17 games for the Steelers during 2023.

Less of a Need for Steelers to Add Slot WR With New OC Arthur Smith?

The Steelers signing Thomas is intriguing. But it’s hardly a slam dunk.

Thomas has played just 20 games over the past four seasons combined. He’s dealt with various injuries, and he will be returning from another ailment in 2024.

More importantly, though, slot receiver may not be as big of a need now that the Steelers hired Arthur Smith as their offensive coordinator.

“Last week, I had said slot WR was a big Steelers’ need,” Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Gotten little production there.

“Under Arthur Smith, Falcons tied for fewest slow WR targets last two years. With his lack of 11 personnel (32nd in NFL last season), it won’t be used much in Pittsburgh. Less of a need.”

With that thought, it would likely be more prudent of the Steelers to save $10 million on Robinson and spend it elsewhere on the roster rather than on another slot receiver.

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