by Ryan Lang
Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers about to begin play in 2023, Draft 412 will review each position, its depth and potential.
Today, the Steelers' wide receiver group goes on the clock:
WR 1: Diontae Johnson - 5’10” 183 lbs.
Johnson is entering his 5th year in the NFL after the Steelers selected him in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft. Johnson’s career has been mostly up and down, marked with moments of brilliance and then inconsistency. He has shown the talent to be a top receiver in the league but has failed to show the production of one. Word from Steelers' camp is that he’s worked hard in the offseason to fix his drop issues and is one of the better route runners in the league. With George Pickens up and coming, he could be the perfect compliment for Kenny Pickett and the Steelers' offense.
WR 2: George Pickens - 6’3” 200 lbs.
Pickens has been a fan favorite since stepping in and catching 52 receptions for 801 yards and 4 touchdowns this past season as a rookie. He has off the chart ability and could grow into a future superstar receiver in the league. He teams up well with Diontae Johnson for a 1-2 combo that will keep defenses on their heels. He's a receiver who can go out and grab a 50/50 ball is a nice weapon for a 2nd year quarterback.
WR 3: Allen Robinson ll - 6’2” 220 lbs.
Allen Robinson is a veteran signing that could really help the wide receiver room. The Steelers secured his services this offseason in a trade with the LA Rams, swapping 7th rounders while the Rams agreed to pay most of his remaining contract. Robinson was one of the league’s most dependable receivers for the first part of his career but hasn’t been the same since suffering a spate of injuries over the last three campaigns.
For Robinson, coming to Pittsburgh is the restart he’s looking for. For the team, the hope is Robinson can avoid the injury bug this year and return to his all-pro form.
WR 4: Calvin Austin lll - 5’9” 162 lbs.
The second year speedster out of Memphis will finally see action after missing all of 2022 with a foot injury. Austin is a fast twitch athlete with elite speed and Antonio Brown-like elusiveness. His size is a concern but if Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada can find a way to use him effectively, he can change the game in one play.
WR 5: Miles Boykin - 6’4” 220 lbs.
Boykin was drafted by the Ravens back in 2019 in the 3rd round out of Notre Dame. He totaled 470 yards with 7 touchdowns in 3 years on the Ravens. The Steelers picked him up last year and decided to bring him back for training camp. Boykin has played some special teams in his career and that may be his only chance of making the team.
WR 6: Cody White - 6’3” 215 lbs.
White is entering his third year with the Steelers. He attended Michigan State, and in his final year with the Spartans he had 922 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is a player that has had a good camp and is a receiver that Kenny Pickett seems to like. He has a decent chance of hanging on as a #6 receiver.
WR 7: Gunner Olszewski - 6’0” 190 lbs.
Olszewski spent the first 3 years with the Patriots before being picked up by Steelers last year. He was brought in mainly for special teams but struggled and eventually was replaced. He was used in Canada’s offense last year, catching quick, short screen passes. Draft 412 thinks he will struggle to make the team, especially if Calvin Austin stays healthy.
WR 8: Ja’Marcus Bradley - 6’0” 198 lbs.
Bradley spent his first 2 seasons with the Browns and played in 8 games in 2020-2021. The Steelers signed him last year to the practice squad and then he signed a reserve/future contract in January of this year. Bradley will probably be on the practice squad once again this season.
WR 9: Dan Chisena - 6’3” 203 lbs.
Chisena has spent three years in the NFL with Minnesota. During his time in Minnesota, he impressed as a special teams gunner, not as a receiver. The Steelers signed him to a reserve/future contract in January of this year after being on the Vikings' practice squad all of 2022. While it is extremely unlikely that Chisena sees the field as a receiver, he could make an impact in the special teams.
WR 10: Dez Fitzpatrick - 6’2” 208 lbs.
Fitzpatrick was drafted by the Titans in the 4th round out of Louisville in the 2021 NFL Draft. After being on their practice squad all of 2022, the Steelers signed him to a reserve/future contract 4 days after his Titans' contract expired. Fitzpatrick posted 49 yards and one touchdown in his only season of action in the NFL. Barring anything drastic, he will likely just be on the practice squad this season.
WR 11: Hakeem Butler - 6’5” 227 lbs.
Butler was drafted in 2019 by the Arizona Cardinals in the 4th round. He never found any traction in the NFL and took his talents to the XFL. He played extremely well this past season and the Steelers signed he led the XFL in receiving yards in 2023. He is a player that the Steelers hoped could step into the 5-6 receiver slot, but he has struggled most of camp, and his future here in Pittsburgh is in doubt.
WR 12: Jordan Byrd - 5’9” 170 lbs.
Byrd is a rookie that the Steelers picked up after this year's draft. He will need to impress as a special team weapon to make the team. At San Diego State, he averaged 25 yards per return and scored 4 touchdowns. The Steelers have been lacking a consistent returner for a few years so Byrd may be an important addition to the roster this fall if he performs.
Draft 412 Analysis
With Diontae Johnson returning to form and George Pickens on the brink of stardom, this could be as solid of a receiving corps as the Steelers have had in recent years. Allen Robinson and Calvin Austin could be a solid 3-4 and with Pat Freiermuth and Denzel Washington at tight end, this offense may have an assortment of weapons they’ve lacked in recent campaigns.