With three of the team’s top five wide receivers set to hit unrestricted free agency, the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to need to add at least one—and probably two—wide receivers this offseason. Former second-round pick James Washington is almost as good as gone, as he requested a trade last summer—a request that went unheeded. Fellow second-round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster has said he wants to stay with the Steelers long-term, but reports indicate that he “hopes to join the Chiefs,” and will likely have other suitors as well.
One unrestricted free agent the Steelers should avoid—at least in the eyes of Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox—is former Houston Texans first-round pick Will Fuller.
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Will Fuller: A Deep Threat … When Healthy
“Fuller can be a tremendous deep threat when he’s healthy—and the Steelers don’t have a true speedster on their roster—but his health has been in an ongoing concern. Fuller appeared in 14 games as a rookie in 2016 but has not appeared in more than 11 games in a season since,” offers Knox.
More notably, the Notre Dame product (who was selected No. 21 overall), did almost nothing last year after signing a one-year, $10.6 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in free agency. After missing the season-opener (PED suspension) and the Week 2 game (personal matter), he suffered a broken finger in Week 4 vs. the Indianapolis Colts. That said, he caught just four passes for 26 yards before landing on injured reserve.
Knox believes that the 27-year-old Fuller “is unlikely to take the veteran’s minimum” in 2022. The reality, though, is that he’s unlikely to get anything more than a minimum deal with no guaranteed money.
Earlier this month, Fuller posted a photo to his verified Instagram account that showed his bandaged left hand with what appears to be a splint on his middle finger. Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network says he’s been told that the finger was “shattered.”
The injury is a huge setback, considering that Fuller had the best year of his career in Houston in 2020, when he caught 53 passes for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in just 11 games. During the five seasons he spent with the Texans he caught a total of 2019 passes for 3,110 yards with 24 touchdown catches.
Steelers’ Diontae Johnson is Looking for a Contract Extension
Meanwhile, the Steelers have to decide whether they want to extend fourth-year receiver Diontae Johnson prior to the start of the 2022 regular season.
Johnson—who had 254 catches and 20 touchdown catches in his first three seasons—is said to be looking for a five-year, $75 million extension, or thereabouts. The former third-round pick (Toledo, 2019) is entering the last year of his rookie deal, which is scheduled to pay him a salary of $2.79 million with a cap number of $3,073,357.
The Steelers also have a decision to make regarding wide receiver/kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud, who will be an unrestricted free agent after earning a $1 million salary in 2021.
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