Steelers’ ‘Camp Darling’ Wide Receiver Back From IR

Rico Bussey Steelers No. 84

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Rico Bussey #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during training camp at Heinz Field on July 29, 2021.

During this past summer Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Rico Bussey got off to a strong start in training camp, so much so that Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the undrafted free agent was “making a case for early camp darling.” Brooke Pryor of ESPN highlighted Bussey’s talent as well, going so far as to say that “he looked a little bit like” Antonio Brown, one of the most accomplished receivers in Steelers history.

But Bussey’s play tailed off as camp and the preseason went along and he was part of the final round of roster cuts on August 31, 2021. He was added to the team’s practice squad the next day, only to be placed on the practice squad Reserve/injured list a few days after that with an undisclosed injury. That’s where he remained until Wednesday December 29, when the Steelers restored him to the practice squad.

Bussey to Make His Regular-Season Debut vs. Cleveland?

The transaction suggests the Steelers might be thinking of elevating him to the active/inactive roster for Monday night’s home finale against the Cleveland Browns and/or the regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers have little to lose by giving the 23-year-old a look-see, as the team isn’t getting much production at the position beyond starters Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.

Even with JuJu Smith-Schuster long-since out of the picture due to a season-ending shoulder injury suffered against the Denver Broncos on October 10, former second-round pick James Washington has just 24 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud has had three games in which he was targeted eight or more times but has just 31 receptions for a meager 205 yards. And current or former practice squad receivers Cody White, Anthony Miller and Steven Sims have combined to catch six passes for 35 yards.

Rico Bussey Played Collegiately at North Texas and Hawaii

Bussey, who is currently listed as being 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, had his best college season in 2018 when he caught 68 passes for 1,1017 yards and 12 touchdowns at North Texas. But he suffered a torn ACL early in the 2019 campaign and failed to regain his form in 2020 after transferring to the University of Hawaii, where he had 31 receptions for 274 yards in eight games.

But a spot opened up on the Steelers practice squad on Wednesday when wide receiver Tyler Vaughns was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Counting Vaughns the Steelers currently have three practice squad receivers sidelined by COVID-19, the other two being the aforementioned Anthony Miller and Steven Sims.

With two games to go in the regular season, third-year man Dionte Johnson remains Pittsburgh’s leading receiver, having contributed 92 receptions for 1,079 yards and seven touchdown catches. Chase Claypool has 51 receptions for 806 yards in his sophomore campaign, but has only one touchdown catch. This as compared to his rookie season in 2020 when he had nine touchdown receptions and scored two other TDs on the ground.

The latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!

Jaguars Ask to Interview Ex-Steelers QB for HC Vacancy: Report
Steelers Add Ex-Bengals Wide Receiver, Release O-Lineman
Steelers’ Cam Heyward Tries to Bring Christmas Cheer to Najee Harris
Steelers Injury Update: 3 Ruled Out vs. Chiefs
Ryan Shazier’s ‘Walking Miracle’ Details Ex-Steelers LB’s Recovery

Read More