Earlier this month the Pittsburgh Steelers attended Georgia’s Pro Day, where general manager Kevin Colbert stumbled upon a former Bulldogs wide receiver that he liked—and soon afterward the Steelers signed Tyler Simmons to a contract. More recently, a similar scenario unfolded, with ex-Eastern Michigan wide receiver Mathew Sexton attracting the attention of Steelers representatives at Michigan State’s Pro Day on March 24.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network/NFL.com, the Steelers are inking Sexton to a contract, no doubt impressed after he ran a “low-4.3 40” at the Michigan State workout, where he also got a look from the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.
Former Eastern Michigan WR Mathew Sexton is signing with the #Steelers, source said, after blazing a low-4.3s 40 at Michigan State pro day last week. Undrafted in 2020, Sexton flashed return skills in The Spring League. #Bills, #Patriots worked him out too, but he’s headed to PIT pic.twitter.com/t3o0sRn6Hd
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 31, 2021
Meanwhile, further confirmation of the agreement has come via EMG Sports Agents, who tweeted out a photo of Sexton signing his Steelers contract.
— EMG Sports (@EMGSportsAgents) March 31, 2021
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Mathew Sexton Will Compete with WR Ray-Ray McCloud
As for where Sexton will have to make his mark if he hopes to make the 2021 roster, well, that’s pretty clear. He will be competing directly with wide receiver/kick return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud to be Pittsburgh’s primary kick returner and a depth receiver.
At first glance, it would seem that Sexton has little chance of unseating McCloud, who was named second-team All-Pro kick returner by PFF in 2020. Yet McCloud’s performance fell off sharply in the second half of last season, making his job security less secure going forward.
Certainly it doesn’t hurt to bring in competition for McCloud (who the Steelers recently re-signed), especially when 4.3 speed comes with some evidence of game-breaking kick return skills, which Sexton evinced when he served as wide receiver/kick returner for the Aviators of the Spring League. It was there that he produced a walk-off overtime punt return for touchdown in Week 2, then proceeded to open the following week’s game with a kickoff return for touchdown.
As such, Sexton has been referred to as a “speedy, scrappy special teams player who can also play WR.” Naturally, he did both at Eastern Michigan, where he caught a total of 100 passes for 1,335 yards and nine touchdowns. He also returned 21 kickoffs for 353 yards and two punts for 77 yards and a touchdown while also demonstrating a penchant for blocking kicks.
Sexton was a consensus 2-star prospect coming out of high school, where he was a two-way starter who scored 99 touchdowns, including 68 rushing TDs. Notably, he averaged 12.5 yards per rush during his high school career as well as 25 yards per pass reception.
The Steelers Are In Great Shape at Wide Receiver
Meanwhile, the Steelers are otherwise in excellent shape at the wide receiver position, so much so that they might not feel compelled to select a receiver in the forthcoming draft, despite the fact that they take a wideout almost every year.
On the other hand, they might feel compelled to use, say, a Day 2 pick on a receiver, knowing that both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2022.
Smith-Schuster, of course, recently signed a contract that will keep him in Pittsburgh for (at least) one more season. The Steelers also have both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool under wraps for two and three more years, respectively.
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