The Pittsburgh Steelers are pretty well set at WR1, 2, 3 and 4, unless they decide to honor James Washington’s trade request—assuming he made such a request. But after JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and Washington, the competition at wide receiver is wide open.
If you’re looking for an early leader in the battle to be Pittsburgh’s fifth receiver, look no further than former Eastern Michigan wideout Mathew Sexton, an undrafted free agent who the Steelers signed in March after he impressed at Michigan State’s Pro Day.
Mike Tomlin: Sexton ‘Ignited Us’
One reason is that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has mentioned Sexton—without being prompted—on several different occasions.
After the 16-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game, Tomlin said: “Sexton had a big [34-yard] punt return. It ignited us. I don’t know that we had done much offensively [up] to then. It was like that was a springboard to us moving forward.”
Also, after fellow undrafted free agent wide receiver Rico Bussey had a show-stopper of a practice a week ago, Tomlin didn’t want to talk about Bussey. Instead, he asked why the media didn’t ask to interview Sexton, after the speedster had “made a play or two” a day earlier.
Mathew Sexton’s Nickname is Cheddar Bob
Meanwhile, Sexton has had a new nickname bestowed upon him. Teammates—and even Tomlin—are calling him Cheddar Bob, at least in part due to his resemblance to actor Evan Jones, who portrayed Eminem’s “dumb friend” Cheddar Bob in the film 8 Mile (2002).
“It was kind of a collective wide receiver group thing,” Sexton said, trying to explain the origins of the nickname while talking to the media on Sunday. “It was kind of a funny thing, and then someone posted the picture of me next to him and I was like, ‘I kind of look like the guy a little bit.’
“It’s cool, I’m riding with it,” added the Michigan native with a laugh. “I’m not too worried about it.”
Nor should he, especially since Tomlin has endorsed it. Asked about the origins of the moniker, he said, “Man, who knows? We’re got more nicknames out here…. I don’t claim that one. But I like it.”
Coincidentally, though, Sexton is wearing No. 80—the same jersey number that former first-round pick Plaxico Burress wore while he played wide receiver for the Steelers between 2000-04. Burress would go on to be mocked for being a “real-life Cheddar Bob” after he accidentally shot himself in the leg back in 2008, not unlike how Jones’ character shot himself in 8 Mile.
Of course, Sexton still has a lot of work to do if he wants to look up a spot on the 53-man roster. Other wide receivers also hoping to earn a place on the team include Cody White, Isaiah McKoy, Anthony Johnson, Tyler Simmons and Ray-Ray McCloud, the latter of whom served as Pittsburgh’s primary kick returner last season and was named second-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus for 2020.