After a disappointing end to last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are primed to bounce back and be Super Bowl contenders. Beginning the season 7-2-1 and stumbling across the finish line to miss the playoffs at 9-6-1 will leave a bad taste in any teams mouth, but especially this team. They seemingly invented ways to lose close games as the season dwindled and quickly fell out of the playoff conversation.
Now, despite all of their on-field woes and also losing perhaps the league’s best receiver in Antonio Brown, the Steelers have managed to make some appealing acquisitions to help bolster their wide receiving core. Third round draft pick Diontae Johnson is a solid choice to help add depth to these Steeler receivers. He doesn’t have extraordinary athleticism, but he has a speedy release and great route running capabilities. He can definitely shape into an Amari Cooper like player as his career progresses. The Steelers have drafted fairly well at the wide receiver position in recent years, so we’ll have to see how Johnson stacks up as he begins his first season.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receivers Set up for Success in 2019
Lofty Goals for Next Season
The Steelers also picked up free agent Donte Moncrief on a deal worth $9 million over two years. This payday assures him some field time, and he’ll without a doubt get his fair share of opportunities with Ben Roethlisberger throwing it as much as he does. I fully expect Moncrief to surpass his previous season high 733 yards receiving. While his talent alone is obviously a great plus for this team, the pressure he’ll be taking off JuJu Smith-Schuster is also vital. While JuJu has clearly cemented himself as one of the top young receivers in the game, next season will be his first as the number one guy. With Brown on the field less, JuJu may or may not get open so easy. Last season, he recorded 1,426 yards on 111 receptions all while playing second fiddle to Brown. Seeing his progress, I believe JuJu reaching 2,000 yards receiving next year is a realistic goal. He can prove he’s the Steelers’ receiver of the future and can etch himself into the top tier of receivers.
Big Ben is also sure to want a quick bounce back after not being able to make the playoffs. Throwing for 5,000 yards is nice but a playoff berth is what really matters. Big Ben will also have to tighten up on his careless mistakes and turnovers that drastically affected last season. Having four red-zone interceptions again just won’t cut it. The Steelers air attack will have to continue to be their foremost bread and butter on offense following Le’Veon Bell’s departure, but that should be no problem. James Conner has proved himself to be a valuable replacement for Bell and even excels as a pass catcher. Roethlisberger has been slinging it at a high volume for years and still can at a high level. Big Ben is sure to have great numbers next year, probably surpassing 40-50 pass attempts per game often. Some scrappy wins may be needed, but I see Big Ben and this solid receiving core exceeding expectations. Even with significant restructuring of their receiving group, the Steelers will continue their stride. Another finish atop the AFC North is likely in store for then next season.