Super Bowl Champion Proposed as Steelers WR Solution

Richie James

Getty Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox argued the Pittsburgh Steelers should consider signing former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Richie James.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may be holding out hope of trading for a star receiver such as Brandon Aiyuk or a potential impactful WR2 like Courtland Sutton. But on June 24, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox had an outside the box suggestion for the Steelers to find additional receiver depth — veteran Richie James.

The 28-year-old won the Super Bowl as a receiver and return specialist for the Kansas City Chiefs last season. Knox named James one of three players the Steelers “must consider” in free agency before the beginning of training camp.

“James didn’t play a major offensive role for the Chiefs last season, but he tallied 569 yards and four touchdowns with the Giants in 2022,” Knox wrote. “He’d give the Steelers another capable pass-catcher and another option on special teams.”

James posted just 10 catches for 114 yards in Kansas City during 2023. But on an offense that lacked receiving depth two years ago, James shined for the New York Giants, helping them earn a postseason berth.

On special teams last season with the Chiefs, James registered 10 yards per punt return with 200 yards on 20 returns. He also had 187 yards on 9 kickoff returns.

How WR Richie James Could Fit With the Steelers

If the Steelers haven’t given up on adding another wide receiver, they are likely searching for an option who had more production last season. George Pickens is the only wideout on Pittsburgh’s roster who had at least 210 receiving yards last season.

James won’t do anything to change that poor fact. He’s only had 200 receiving yards in two of his five NFL seasons, and he didn’t reach that plateau in 2023.

But James didn’t receive many opportunities on offense with the Super Bowl champions. He played a career-low 137 offensive snaps last season while lining up for his most special teams snaps since 2019.

If given an opportunity in Pittsburgh, James could return to his 2022 form when he was tied for first with the Giants in receptions and second in receiving yards.

James also has big-play potential if given the ball in open space. He averaged 17.1 yards per catch with the San Francisco 49ers in 2020.

That’s what the Steelers are hoping to get opposite Pickens from Van Jefferson, Quez Watkins and/or Scotty Miller. All three receivers have averaged at least 15 yards per reception in a season before but haven’t achieved that mark since at least 2022.

The Steelers also have 2022 fourth-rounder Calvin Austin III and third-round rookie Roman Wilson on the roster.

James Could Also be a Special Teams Asset

Even if the Steelers sign James and he doesn’t outperform Jefferson, Watkins and Miller on offense, there could still be a role for him on special teams.

Averaging 10 yards per punt return is no small feat. James gave the Chiefs, on average, an extra first down every time he received the opportunity to return a punt.

Austin registered 8.6 yards per punt return for the Steelers last season.

James could also return kickoffs. While the Steelers signed Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason for that role, the NFL’s rule changes on kickoffs this season could result in teams needing more than one returner.

Knox argued that versatility could make James very valuable to the Steelers. He also likely won’t cost much.

“James would be a valuable addition, given the league’s new kickoff rules, and he’d likely come in at a bargain price,” Knox wrote. “He played on a one-year, $1.2 million deal last season. A similar offer would likely bring James to Pittsburgh, where he could provide depth for multiple units.”

If the Steelers could sign James on that affordable of a contract, there’s little risk in bringing him in to compete during training camp.

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