(Another in a series examining the Steelers' 90-man roster as the team heads to training camp to begin the process of cutting down to 53 players in advance of the 2020 regular season.)
ON THE ROSTER NOW: Saeed Blacknall, Deon Cain, Chase Claypool, Amara Darboh, Quadree Henderson, Anthony Johnson, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, James Washington.
ON THE ROSTER IN SEPTEMBER: Mike Tomlin has kept six wide receivers the past three years, and that sixth spot this year will depend on, of course, special teams. Darrius Heyward-Bey used to have a stranglehold on that spot, but, with rookie Chase Claypool having proven himself as a wicked punt gunner in college, the second-rounder could already have both a top-5 receiver spot and special-teams spot sewn up. So we'll predict five this year.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT: The veterans in "the room" last season finished third, fourth and eighth in receptions on the team. Then-rookie Diontae Johnson led the way with 59 receptions, and he did so while struggling with a nagging groin injury. Smith-Schuster was a disappointing fourth, but he also struggled with leg injuries throughout the season.
KEY DEPARTURES: Donte Moncrief. He almost had a finger ripped off going up for a high fastball early in camp, but continued to play and his subsequent drops, and an unusual compensation-pick calculation, caused the team to release him with only four catches for 18 yards. Also gone are deep reserves Tevin Jones and Johnny Holton.
KEY ADDITIONS: As mentioned earlier, Claypool was the second-round draft pick, and in a draft without a first-rounder that makes him the rookie in the spotlight right now. Blacknall is on his fifth NFL team since coming out of Penn State undrafted only two years ago. Teams are no doubt interested in the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder's 4.39 speed. Anthony Johnson is a 6-2, 220-pounder who caught 133 passes for 2,367 yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons at the University of Buffalo, but was undrafted coming out in 2018. His size and production make him worth a look.
THE SKINNY: Smith-Schuster no doubt will regain his status as the Steelers' premier receiving threat if healthy. The return of Ben Roethlisberger certainly will help him, as well as all the other receivers. Washington made great progress last season and his jumping ability and hand strength will bookend with JuJu to provide a physical duo. Also figure that Diontae Johnson will make strides from the natural receiving instincts he showed as a rookie, particularly as an intuitive route-runner. But the Steelers also are expecting him to add some muscle to his 183-pound frame the way Antonio Brown did over the course of his first offseason. Those three figure to provide Roethlisberger with quality first-team options, and then the progress of rookie Claypool will be monitored. He was a 6-4, 238-pound red-zone threat at Notre Dame and will add to the physical nature of the Steelers' receiving corps. Switzer has the best hands on the team, while Cain and Darboh were interesting midseason additions. Both were draft picks who received few chances at previous stops and either one could develop into a quality NFL receiver. Anthony Johnson and Blacknall are size/speed longshots worth a look, and Henderson is getting his third NFL shot as a return specialist. If he shows what he displayed during his days at Pitt, he has a chance.
NEXT: Tight Ends