Armchair GM

The Steelers Still in Need of WR Help

October 1, 2019
10 minutes read
The Steelers Still in Need of WR Help

The Win Against the Bengals Showed Steelers Still Need Wide Receiver Help.

Some Free Agent WRs They Should Try Out.

It’s become obvious the Steelers have over estimated the quality of their wide receiver corps. They have one #1 (we hope) in Juju Smith-Shuster. James Washington has failed to take his preseason momentum into games that count. Rookie, Diontae Johnson, had a nice touchdown catch but even that showed his problems hauling in passes outside his frame. I don’t want to douse the rookie in cold water but that problem plagued him his entire college career. Donte Moncrief has proven to be a total dud and the rest are WR4s.

Wide Receivers Not so Great in Cincinnati Game

Running Backs, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, accounted for 140 receiving yards. The guys whose primary job is to catch passes,  Juju Smith-Shuster, Diontae Johnson and new comer, Nick Vannett, combined 120 yards. James Washington and Zach Gentry who both saw extensive game time had ZERO catches on ZERO targets. Johnny Holton also had ZERO catches. Juju who is supposed to be our WR1 had 15 yards on 3 catches. And the elephant in the room, Donte Moncrief, did not play at all, even though he was active for the game. One third of the WRs yardage came on one 43 yard pass to Diontae Johnson. We obviously need better production than that.

The Le’Veon Bell Compensatory Pick Situation

I exchanged some emails with the gentleman at Over the Cap website who specializes in the Compensatory Draft. There have been articles written recently about the Eagles cutting L.J. Fort and how that might effect the Steelers projected pick for Le’Veon Bell leaving. He told me if the Steelers cut Donte Moncrief it might increase the chances of the Steelers getting the pick. He believes the comp pick ‘formula’ is partially based on snap count. So, if Moncrief doesn’t have many there’s more of a chance of getting the comp. Nobody knows for sure because  the NFL refuses to release its comp pick ‘formula’. I think they won’t release it because it doesn’t exist but that’s another gripe for another day. Moncrief was active and did not play against the Bengals. If the Steelers cut the under performing WR that opens up a roster spot that could and should be filled by outside talent.

Should Pittsburgh sign any of the players below it will not count against the comp pick formula. The free agency period that effects the 2020 Draft  ended in May of this year.

Available Free Agent Wide Receivers

There’s a hand full of veteran Wide Receivers out there who the Steelers should give a look, if for no other reason than starting a fire under the lackluster group they’ve got, now.

And before you let out the ‘He sucks!’ barrage, these are just tryouts for guys who will for the most part be making the veteran minimum. Nothing cast in stone and we’re not breaking the bank.

Jordan Matthews – At 6’-3”, 215# with a 4.46 forty, good hands and route skills, Matthews seemed destined to set the league on fire when he entered the NFL in 2014. He started strong with the Eagles recording seasons with 67, 85 and 73 catches,  amassing 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns before being traded to Bills in 2017. He was a solid WR2 who seemed to be on his way to being a #1 receiver.

Matthews did undergo knee and ankle surgery in 2017 but both of those surgeries were reported as successful and his game seemed unchanged. The injury bug bit him again that year with minor thumb surgery. Since then all the wind seems to have gone out of his sails and he’s  bounced around the league. Matthews was released by the 49ers in the final cut prior to the 2019 season. San Francisco has a glut of young WR talent, though and Matthews was probably only signed as insurance should the youngsters not pan out. They did and Matthews became expendable. Maybe with another chance in Pittsburgh he could have a return to form

Michael Crabtree – Yes, Michael Crabtree. The former 1st Round pick never quite lived up to his 2009 pre-draft hype but he has been a WR1 for a good portion of his career. Not too long ago, in 2016, he had one of the his biggest years in Oakland with 89 catches for 1,003 yards at 12.1 ypc and 8 touchdowns. He is 32 but he showed last year there was still some gas in his tank with 54 catches for 607 at 11.2 yards per and 3 TDs from spotty Raven QB play. He was just released by the Cardinals. According to Cardinal’s Head Coach, Kliff Kingsbury, Crabtree’s was let go due to wanting young receivers for Kyler Murray to grow up with, not because Crabtree’s game has gone bad. Local Arizona media speculated Crabtree, like Matthews, was an insurance signing and his lack of playing time in preseason bears that out.

Ryan Grant – Grant was just released by the Raiders. In his time with Washington he was known for his good hands, meticulous route running and ability to get yards after the catch. He dealt with a minor ankle injury in 2018 but seemed physically sound during preseason with Oakland. The soft spoken slot receiver had 35 catches for 334 yards and 1 touchdown in 10 game starts with the Redskins in 2018. In 2017, in just 7 game starts, Grant had 45 receptions for 573 at a healthy 12.7 yards per with 4 touchdowns.

Dez Bryant – Yes, Dez F-ing Bryant. Why? Because, ‘Why not?’. In 2017, his final season with the Cowboys, Bryant recorded 69 receptions for 838 yards at a very nice 12.1 ypc and 6 TDs. And yes, he’s a jerk but I’m guessing he would be very happy and very grateful for any opportunity to get back into the NFL. Still, there is very little evidence to show Bryant has fully recovered his 2018 Achilles injury other than his 3/4 speed Twitter workout video but if he is actually healthy he could be a physical presence for Pittsburgh.

Out of all of these Jordan Matthews and Michael Crabtree are the two I’d most like to see Colbert and Tomlin take a look at. Matthews’ game couldn’t have just disappeared. At 27, he’s far too young for that. It may just be due to the timing of his surgeries and  bad team fits. And people can say what they want about Michael Crabtree. He’s been a very good producer all his career. The guy’s a pro and he can CATCH. Ryan Grant would be a someone to challenge professional hand waver, kneeler and zero yards after the catch specialist, Ryan Switzer, Hey! One Ryan for another! Dez Bryant is a long shot not only because of the injury but because the Steelers and Cowboys have a natural hatred of each other the same as snakes and mongooses.

The Cincinnati game did nothing to reassure us about the current wide receiving corps. Randy Fichtner’s game plan seemed to be an acknowledgement of how weak they are. The team has no WR2, hell, Juju is yet to perform as a WR1. Diontae Johnson had a good game but this group is lacking.

So, what do you think? Should the Steelers go after any of these guys? Are there other Free Agents you think they should target? Should they try to make yet another trade?

Go Stillers!!!

Jeffrey Burton

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