In its recently-released rankings of each NFL team’s receiving corps, Pro Football Focus (PFF) noted that “JuJu Smith-Schuster is the team’s elder statesman [at WR], and he’s not even 24 years old yet.”
As for the rankings themselves, those were assembled “using PFF’s play-by-play grading,” and at #18 on the list, PFF projects Pittsburgh’s wide receivers as decidedly middle-of-the-pack heading into the 2020 season. Yet the group’s ceiling is high, thanks in part to Roethlisberger’s return from elbow surgery and the addition of uber-promising second-round draft pick Chase Claypool, who doesn’t figure in to the grading.
Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receivers in 2020
There is also plenty of room for the team’s returning receivers to grow. Diontae Johnson is one of PFF’s ‘breakout’ candidates for 2020, having shown the potential to become a No. 1 receiver. Almost as encouraging is the word on third-year wideout James Washington, who “started to put things together towards the end of the  season … earning a receiving grade of 73.4 from Week 9 through the end of the season (28th among wide receivers).” When you combine Johnson and Washington with Smith-Schuster, it’s easy to see why PFF concluded that “there is talent here for sure.”
The wide receivers may also benefit from the addition of veteran tight end Eric Ebron via free agency (Indianapolis Colts), who hopes to return to his 2018 form, when he caught 66 passes for 750 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Ebron joins a tight end room that features Vance McDonald, who will always be fondly remembered for his stiff-arm of Chris Conte, even if he never catches another pass for the Steelers. Just for fun, let’s take a break to revisit that stiff-arm …
Meanwhile, Ryan Switzer is likely to serve as the team’s fifth wide receiver, yet it’s possible that the team will keep six on the roster, especially if third-year player Deon Cain continues to develop or first-year man Saeed Blacknall surprises. Other wide receivers on the 90-man roster include Quadree Henderson, Anthony Johnson and Amara Darboh.
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AFC North Rivals Ranked
As for the Steelers’ AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns are highest ranked on the list at #9, thanks in large part to the presence of both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who “rank seventh and 13th, respectively, in PFF receiving grade since entering the league in 2014, and they are both among the top three players at the position in forced missed tackles after the catch over that same time span.”
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals are also ahead of the Steelers at #11, as A.J. Green “is one the game’s elite when he’s at 100%,” while “Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross form a strong supporting cast.”
The Baltimore Ravens are ranked below the Steelers at #25, with Antonio Brown’s cousin, Marquise Brown, headlining the group, “poised to break through in 2020 after generating an NFL-high passer rating of 134.4 on his 65 targets in 2019 despite playing through injury.”
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